In the midst of doing some research for this review, in order to find some context for the record, it dawned on me that it would be completely needless. No Dogs Allowed exists in its own world of relentless charm and charisma, finding rare eccentricities in pop structures and sensibilities. Which is not say that Sidney Gish isn’t a personal artist, she really overshares, her lyrics are filled with candid anecdotes and reactions. ‘I’m Filled with Steak and Cannot Dance’ details how easily our rational thoughts are disregarded, comparing the act of overeating with allowing an ex to reconnect. On ‘Mouth Log’, she opens up about consistent self-sabotaging decisions, which has left her in a place where she only feels accomplished in‘groups for memes, where everyone fights/And tries to make straight white boys cry’.
While these lyrics are clearly painstakingly considered, they are easily missed, because the guitar lines that decorate them are so catchy. The album starts off with a blatant sense of optimism, using chords that could be straight from the opening credits of a children’s TV show (a good thing!). Each of the next four tracks contain irresistible hooks and breakdowns, pushing that ii-V-I progression to the most interesting places. The deceptively simple ‘Sin Triangle’ is certain to lodge itself into any unsuspecting psyche, and ‘Sophisticated Space’ eases seamlessly into R&B territory, a space in which Gish can manoeuvre just as impressively in.
As the record progresses, Gish takes a step back to chew her thoughts slowly. On ‘Persephone’, she comes to terms with past mistakes, using the memories of mispronunciations as the example, and resiliently sets herself up to pre-emptively deal with future ones. While this side of Gish is refreshing, and the abstract subject matter makes for great pub talk, without the bright brilliance of the record’s catchier moments, songs like ‘Persephone’ or ‘Imposter Syndrome’ almost veer into the realm of tedium. Or, from a more optimistic perspective, the high points of No Dogs Allowed are so high that anything short is mediocre.
Nonetheless, the first half dozen songs here have proved triumphant enough to lure me back on a daily basis, and don’t be surprised if No Dogs Allowed survives the Internet’s short attention span to feature on 2018 year-end lists.
CT Rating: 8/10
Niall O’Shaughnessy – Music Writer