The Format are Sam Means and Nate Ruess. They're not exactly the type of band I usually listen to. They're going on tour with All American Rejects. This in itself might be reason enough to disregard these guys. But hey, Ryan Adams went on tour with Alanis Morisette and you still drool over him. OK, so maybe you hate Ryan Adams. But our resident Tripwire chief, Matt DuFour, has his tongue constantly hanging out for him, so let's pretend that analogy worked. Anyway, The Format's Dog Problems is actually a pretty solid album. Don't let the pop-punk thing bother you. Trust me, it's not like that. Well, maybe a little.
Dog Problems begins with "Matches" which comes off as a carnival song. A dancing organ reminds me of "Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite." John Lennon told George Martin that he wanted to be able to smell the sawdust when he heard "Mr. Kite." There's no sawdust smell on "Matches," but it's a nice, relaxing intro to the rest of the album. There might not be sword swallowing men and bearded ladies, but I am reminded a little of Tom Hanks making a wish. "Matches" is the first, but not the last, song that reminds me of Jason Falkner's Jellyfish.
"Time Bomb," the centerpiece of the album, is a perfect pop song. I took a road trip this weekend and while listening to Exile On Main Street, I asked my friend what went through the Stones' head when they played back "Loving Cup" for the first time. Did they just sit there and smile and think to themselves that they were the crust of the earth? They should have. Of course this is no "Loving Cup," but it's a song that could/should be a big summer hit with both the indie kids and the MTV kids alike. Queen-like harmonies start off the song that quickly turns into some dancey melodic orgasm. "Tick Tock, you're not a clock. You're a time bomb baby." Can I have some coffee with that sugar? If you're into that Brendan Benson/Jason Falkner thing, then listen to this. It sounds more like Brendan Benson during his One Mississippi days, which is an absolutely marvelous thing. It's irresistibly catchy, upbeat, and has harmonies that would have made Freddy Mercury proud.
I was instantly drawn to the song "Oceans" when I popped this disc into my computer. It wasn't because of the music or the "oooh-aaaahs." It was simply because the song shares a name with a Pearl Jam classic. So I listened. The song instantly reminds me of Fountain's Of Wayne's "Stacey's Mom." Is that a bad thing? I don't know, probably not. The songs aren't similar in melody or arrangement, but the aesthetic is similar - catchy power pop that invades your brain and starts planting its seeds.
This album is cool because each song sounds a little different while sounding the same. The album goes from Randy Newman to Pete Yorn to Freddie Mercury to Fountains Of Wayne to Big Star. So needless to say, if you like pop music that's sugar in your tea, then run to your local record store and buy this album. Record Store?? Who am I kidding...if you're reading this, then just click on iTunes. There ya go.