Puppy – The Goat [Review]

A goat is a hardy, domesticated, ruminant mammal with backwards curving horns. It’s also an acronym meaning Greatest Of All Time. It is most likely that Puppy have chosen to name their debut album after the latter definition, as a tongue in cheek expression of their confidence. After releasing two acclaimed EPs, people have hotly anticipated the trio’s debut full length release and wondered just what it might sound like.

Puppy are a difficult band to pigeonhole. Their music is primarily alt-Rock, but often takes influence from heavy metal, college rock and glam. As Black Hole opens the record, this question still remains. A mammoth riff kicks things off, checking metal off the list before a reverberating vocal courtesy of Jock Norton begins. The production of Jock’s singing is reminiscent of ABBA/Black Sabbath crossover band, Ghost, so there are metal credentials at the forefront of The Goat. The chorus however is a huge singalong that would far more likely suit a Weezer slacker anthem.

Instrumentally the album is as genre-varied as one would expect Puppy to be. There are straight 4/4 d-beat sections that satisfy a punk rock quota, guitar licks straight out of the school of Van Halen, headbanging riffs and moments of Brit rock a la Blur. The percussion is always dexterous, providing a backbone for the songs to grow around, while the guitar and bass lock in together to blast out the riffs that define Puppy’s quintessentially unique sound.

Entombed stands out as the highlight of this tremendously enjoyable album. A lumbering, imposing riff starts out alone until the band kick in, before being palm-muted and softly strummed during the verse. The bridge strays back into more alternative territories with string bends and open playing that calls to mind Nirvana’s In Utero – though more Heart Shaped Box than Rape Me.

The vocal delivery has a distinctly British sound to it. Jock has clearly had some elocution lessons as every word is sung with clarity, never being lost in the riffstorm. While this may be alluring to some listeners, it may stunt Puppy’s international success, particularly in the United States. There’s not a wide history of British sounding bands becoming successful without relinquishing some shred of identity.

Puppy’s debut album is carefully constructed and greatly accomplished. Every song has a chorus that can be sung along to on first listen, and every riff is adeptly played. All three musicians perform proficiently and with a youthful vim; there’s a keen sense of excitement to the delivery of each song. The lack of any single discernible genre is a delight as the record keeps listeners guessing just where each song will go, and the clear Britishness invokes a sense of national pride for a portion of the audience. A very impressive debut LP, and one that shows a very promising future ahead.

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