Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Man's Gin: Smiling Dogs (2010)

Man's Gin reminds me equally of Neil Young, Soundgarden, and the music of O Brother, Where Art Thou? It's soulful, dark singer-songwriter material full of poetry and pain. In other words, while most of the nation is listening to the mindless drivel of Kanye West and Lady Gaga, Cobalt's Erik Wunder is delivering what should be the soundtrack of these times.

Smiling DogsOh yeah. That's the band's claim to fame, being the side project of the aptly named Erik Wunder, multi-instrumentalist of the critically acclaimed Cobalt. And yes, despite the obvious, enormous difference between the incredibly harsh black metal of Cobalt and the folk/rock/country of Man's Gin, there are musical similarities. It's easy to hear the same kind of droning style in the riffs to the title track, or some of the same rhythms, or a hint of the same kind of dissonance in the piano of "Solid Gold Telephone".

The music is built mostly on acoustic guitar, drums, piano, and upright bass, but some electric guitar is thrown in now and again. Wunder's baritone has all the soul needed to pull off the singer-songwriter style. The lyrics explore all kinds of pain and evil in the world, notably nuclear war, a hitman, and the difficulty of hearing God's voice. Every bit of it is compelling and memorable, and he's saved the best for last in the perfect darkness of "Doggamn".

The Verdict: This is dark, compelling singer-songwriter material. Wunder is a musical genius. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.


  1. Yes! This was one of my favorite non-metal records of last year. I've totally been getting this dark Americana vibe - Crippled Black Phoenix, Dax Riggs, etc.

  2. Crippled Black Phoenix is not something I'm familiar with. I'll have to check that out. Also, it sounds like a chicken dish. Yum.