The annals of rock 'n' roll history are replete with great core duos—Lennon and McCartney, Page and Plant, Daltrey and Townshend, Mercury and May, Jones and Strummer.
In the riotous Austin power-punk quintet A Giant Dog, singer Sabrina Ellis is the Jagger to guitarist Andrew Cashen's Richards. The two started playing in bands together back in their Houston high school days with Orville Neeley, namesake of the excellent Austin rock band OBN IIIs and A Giant Dog's founding drummer. Since forming A Giant Dog, Ellis and Cashen have been the band's glimmer twins, sharing vocal duties and cowriting the tunes. Their gender dynamic and vocal harmonies suggest another seminal tag team, too, in the Pixies' Frank Black and Kim Deal.
Marked by equal measures of sugar and grime, A Giant Dog's big, bright, and boisterous songs exist at the intersection of punk, glam, and power pop. Were this rock 'n' roll high school, A Giant Dog would almost certainly be the burnouts. "We are shitty people who do not deserve to be signed to Merge," Ellis said when the band joined the esteemed label. "But we are down."
Pile, the group's third album and Merge debut, doubles down on the band's swaggering sleaze and stoned sense of humor. "I'm too old to die young/I can't even remember being young," Ellis sings on the speedball "Sex & Drugs." Drums pound with full-bore intensity, while beer-soaked riffs rip through speakers. It's a record that finds the band at its best and most buoyant. It's a triumph for A Giant Dog as a whole, but the magic clearly starts with Cashen and Ellis.