by Ben Hogwood
What’s the story?
For The Grey Album, The Black Dog have gone back to basics. Inspired by electronic bands such as Depeche Mode and The Human League in their early years, they went back to much older ways of working, with one keyboard per person and a strict limit imposed on the use of the computers.
These were the confines for an album that continues a rich stream of creativity for the Sheffield trio. Proud of their heritage, they are continuing to explore music and architecture simultaneously – and this latest opus taps into both art forms for its inspiration.
What’s the music like?
As its title implied, this is often an album of sombre colour – but there is also an impressive grandeur to the soundscapes The Black Dog conjure up.
That much is immediately evident from the stark outlines and imposing structure of Ghosts Of Decay, with steely synthesizer sounds reminiscent of the band’s city mates Cabaret Voltaire. As the beats arrive so too does an extra urgency, and the bumpy terrain of Let’s All Make Brutalism draws parallels with the trio’s love of 1980s architecture.
The faster tracks on this album are very impressive. Harder Times puts its pedal to the metal with an excellent, low slung groove, while the cleverly named (We Never Needed This) Fascist Groove Thang is excellent. Thee Difference Ov Girls drives forward with great purpose, as does the superb This Is Phil Talking and I Dare You. The last two are peppered with excellent riffs and generate great momentum – before the album subsides into the attractive coda, Borstal Communications sounding like the throb of steelpans.
Does it all work?
It does. The Black Dog are past masters at gauging the structure of an album and do so again here, moving effortlessly between mood and tempo and peaking with a couple of certified bangers.
Is it recommended?
Yes, enthusiastically – The Grey Album is a fine addition to The Black Dog discography, and confirmation that they are very much at the top of their game.