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'Runouttaluck' Slashes Without Bludgeoning

The Golden Dogs' members engage in charmingly bratty displays of melodic gamesmanship.
The Golden Dogs' members engage in charmingly bratty displays of melodic gamesmanship.

For reasons unknown, Canada is often viewed more as a rock 'n' roll punchline than as a hotbed of creativity, with Rush, Triumph and Glass Tiger leaping more readily to mind than Neil Young, Joni Mitchell or The Band. But it's been harder in the last few years to snicker at a place that's produced The New Pornographers, Broken Social Scene (and various cousins such as Feist and Metric) and Tegan and Sara.

The Golden Dogs, from Toronto, released Big Eye Little Eye in Canada nearly a year ago. Newly available in the U.S., it's the sound of pop nerds engaging in charmingly bratty displays of melodic gamesmanship. "Runouttaluck" opens with a bassline that sounds like a rubber playground ball being whacked with mallets, setting up a hi-rev rhythm with an almost robotically single-minded beat that's colored by stuttering hi-hat, which in turn flickers from speaker to speaker.

It's lean enough to slash, not bludgeon, and guitarist Dave Azzolini chimes in with a vocal during the verses that owes more than a little to Paul McCartney, while his keyboard-playing wife Jessica Grassia takes the equally nervous choruses. By then, it's clear that the cover of McCartney's underrated "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five" four songs later isn't a goof, but rather a tip of the hat to pop music that can be quirky and hooky all at once.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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Marc Hirsh lives in the Boston area, where he indulges in the magic trinity of improv comedy, competitive adult four square and music journalism. He has won trophies for one of these, but refuses to say which.