On album opener and lead single How Simple, Frances Quinlan wrangles with what it’s like to learn about yourself—which can get ugly. The theme carries through to new album track, Not Abel, where Quinlan turns the focus outward and sings about the ways other people can be disappointing, relative strangers and biblical figures.
“Karl Ove Knausgaard wrote a great book called A Time for Everything. I’d say it inspired a lot of little moments, in this song especially,” shares Quinlan. “At one point he writes about Cain and Abel, but approaches it with a far more intimate, even mundane lens, completely unlike the Bible, which is pretty bare of any personal description. As you spend a few days with them, Cain becomes increasingly sympathetic. It’s a funny thing trying to examine beliefs. Sympathy and understanding complicate everything too much I suppose.”
The formidable 9-song collection is the band’s strongest and most cohesive album to date. Crafted by Frances Quinlan (songwriter, lead vocalist, and rhythm guitarist), Tyler Long (bass), Joe Reinhart (guitar), and Mark Quinlan (drums), the album imagines what it’s like to cast off long held perceptions, often without being certain about the new ones that will replace them. Quinlan has been meditating a lot on power. In this particular moment in history, this thought begs a greater question: what do we do with power and the men who so freely brandish it? “I’m angry that I believed in this false idea for so long, that a man would come along and show me what I was worth.”
Self-produced and recorded at The Headroom in Philadelphia by Reinhart and Kyle Pulley, Bark Your Head Off, Dog features the familiar sounds that have always made the band allergic to genre: grunge, folk, punk, and power pop all appear, with inspiration from ELO to Elvis Costello to ‘70s girl group vocal arrangements. This time around, they’ve added strings, more intricate rhythms, lush harmonies (featuring Thin Lips’ Chrissy Tashjian), along with a momentary visit with a vocoder. In more than one place, Mark Quinlan drums like he’s at a disco with Built to Spill. Bark Your Head Off, Dog is, without question, Hop Along’s most dynamic and textured record yet.