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Doors @7, Music @ 8.
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Be excellent to each other.

A Giant Dog

The moment the needle drops on Bite, the new A Giant Dog record, one’s conception of what an A Giant Dog record sounds like bends like space and time around a starship running at light speed.

The biggest point of departure is that Bite is a concept album, concerning characters who find themselves moving in and out of a virtual reality called Avalonia. You’re thrown into it quickly, as a calm, robotic voice says, “Welcome to Avalonia, happiness awaits inside” over a crushing synth line that seguesin to an opulent string arrangement.

“Welcome to Avalonia” sounds like the birth of a new world, and sonically, it is. A Giant Dog’s first album of original songs since 2017’s Toy, Bite finds the band—Sabrina Ellis, Andrew Cashen, Danny Blanchard, Graham Low, and Andy Bauer—at their peak as musicians, challenging themselves with more complex arrangements and subject matter that forced them out of their heads and into those of the characters who occupy this supposed paradise.

“Within our previous albums, the subject matter, the lyrics are all very personal, based on our experiences—self-centered, even,” Ellis explains. “In making this conceptual album, we had to find ourselves within, or project ourselves into, the principal characters. We developed them, got to know their minds, emotions, and motivations, and then expressed those in nine songs. The songs aren’t demonstrative as in musical theater. Instead, the songs are heated moments, internal expressions that stand on their own.

”Those heated moments are spurred by subjects that are as thorny in virtual reality as they are in meat space, as themes of addiction, gender fluidity, living ethically in a capitalist society, physical autonomy, avarice, grief, and consent bubble beneath the promised happiness of Avalonia.

This is evident in songs like “Different Than,” where Ellis sings, “My body can’t explain the things my mind don’t comprehend ”as if societal gender pressure is squeezing its protagonist out of their skin. Its chorus of “That’s what makes me different than him” is half-anthem, half-elegy, defiance in the face of oppression.

That elegy/anthem energy is prevalent throughout Bite, as sentiment like “I believe in gravity, and drugs, and outer space, I believe that misery is meant to be escaped,” crashes into “Technology, eventually, will have us all replaced” in “I Believe.” Later, in “Watch It Burn,” Ellis echoes that chorus in exploring their obsession with “acne-scarred and shiner marked” humans: “I believe in gravity, and sex, and rock and roll. Humanity is like a law that’s written on your soul.

”The songs on Bite are full of bombast, at turns calling to mind the spacefaring operatic rock of Electric Light Orchestra and the high drama of an Ennio Morricone film score. The album’s narrative sweep is epic in scope, its characters facing impossible odds and certain doom, existing as comfortably with the sci-figrandiosity of Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak as it does with the high fantasy of Dio and Iron Maiden.