Casino Twilight Dogs
asino Twilight Dogs is going to give a lot of rock critics a pounding headache. I mean, successfully reviewing a bad record is a really frustrating task. It’s a cinch for a good album: if you listen through it enough and type furiously at your notes, you can usually get enough little musical synapses to fire to get a cohesive piece. A good record ducks and parries traditional identifiers like “good” and “interesting,” but it can inspire an emotional response that almost unfailingly coalesces into eloquent, or at least crisp, writing. But who wants to listen to a bad record, let alone talk about it? It’s really difficult to be moved to use any deeper words than “boring” or “dumb” or “poopy-pants.”
And, dear reader, a review of a bad record stands before you. Many readers have already navigated away from the page, scared away by the big fat “D+” at the top. But there remain a precious few, bored at work or loyally plowing through all of Stylus’ content, maybe here on accident, or (god forbid) actual fans of Youth Group or their newest, Casino Twilight Dogs. And you’re left with a flaccid record that, for better or for worse, requires seven hundred words about itself (of which, I’ve finished a mere third), and somebody’s gotta write it. These Australian boys have been pimping Casino back home since June, gaining a number of fans for their hit cover of Alphaville’s “Forever Young.” The remake was a big hit after appearing one of last season’s episodes of “The O.C.” (which, of course, we all agree is the worst season so far, right?). It’s fitting then that the bewilderingly-titled Casino is the low point for this Death Cab-approved band.
“The O.C.” moved on from its rough season, killing off Mischa Barton’s wooden Marissa Cooper and focusing on Autumn Reeser’s adorable overachiever Taylor Townsend. In the same stretch, Youth Group has practically jumped the shark. Like a bad teen soap, this record can be accused of heavy-handed theft from its predecessors, rote performances, and worst of all, broken promises of high drama. For there were certainly signs of life in 2005’s Skeleton Jar: a little C-86, a little power-pop, and a dash of Fairport Convention; it was a record that didn’t wow, but sounded pleasant enough. Singer Toby Martin has always been the bright spot, with a clear delivery that retains its character through the multi-tracking and vocal effects. On Casino, if you squint your eyes just right, craned your neck just so and focused your ears on Martin’s vocals, you might even make out a bit of the Shins in “Dead Zoo” or “Forever Young.” Unfortunately, these are amongst the few flickers of life in a bunch of limply-written songs, many of which are turning influence to copycatting.
Couldn’t their producer have told them any better? Casino Twilight Dogs is produced by Wayne Connolly, who worked with Youth Group on their last album and has produced similarly nondescript bands like You Am I and the Vines. His Wikipedia article says it all: “Wayne Connolly is a respected  Australian musician and producer.” Even your harshest Wikicritic can’t deny the vitriol of someone clinically questioning a veteran’s ability to produce. Perhaps the boys over at Wikimedia Foundation (read: a couple of 14-year olds in Trenton) see the humor in backhandedly praising a guy who helped break the Vines. But shouldn’t he be the guy to tell the band that maybe, just maybe, the record was sounding a little too much like it was ripping off “Fake Plastic Trees?” Or “Clocks?” Or “Float On?”
There’s precious little evidence that Youth Group can pick itself up at some point, but this episode has left us hanging. Casino Twilight Dogs does little but muddy up the Youth Group storyline, and leaves us counting the nineteen words until the end of this review. Eighteen. Seventeen. Sixteen… oh hell, just go buy an album that isn’t this one.