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Pavlov's Dog - 'Echo And Boo' Hot

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Written by Central Electronic Brain     March 12, 2011    
 
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A quite remarkable return from a band that still has an amazing amount to offer.

Even with David Surkamp releasing a solo album 4 years ago and Pavlov's Dog touring regularly since 2004, I'm not sure that many people envisioned there being another album using this band name. However now twenty years down the line from their last release 'Lost In America' comes 'Echo & Boo'. Surkamp is rejoined by original drummer and the man who put the band together in the early seventies Mike Safron, along with an assembled cast that includes David's wife Sara on guitars, percussion and 'voice', who along with David produced the album. Surkamp's high pitched warbling vocals are still strongly in evidence and I'm sure, just as divisive as they've ever been. I have to say that I find his delivery to be spell-binding and refreshingly committed. 

The sound on 'Echo & Boo' is crystal clear and in that respect it is very current in its intentions, but for those hoping for a link to the previous works from this band, this is a collection of songs that would have been as happy being released three and a half decades ago as they are now. Huge keyboard melodies, vocal led atmospheric passages and a more straight ahead and less flashy manner of highlighting the guitars, makes for a collection of songs that doesn't scream and shout for attention. Rather they creep up on you in an unsuspecting way where you find that after three or four listens to them they already feel like old friends. The other aspect of the Pavlov's Dog sound that is still in evidence is violin, with Abbie Hainz adding the plaintive tones that bring a different, more reflective tone to the music. This presence is most strongly felt through the wonderful four piece ensemble that makes up 'The Death Of North American Industry Suite' which in a way the whole album revolves around. Incorporating instrumental sections that evoke the American Civil War alongside the folky, progressive themes that Pavlov's Dog do so well, makes for a suite that is moving and involving from start to finish, with the overall sense being that of defiant, yet moving sadness.

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The best song on the album is fittingly the title track, which through its storytelling delivery, both in the content and the spoken word delivery of much the lyrics, sets the tone for the artwork and much of the feel of the album. The bright keyboard melody that plays against some unbalanced scales make for a massively involving passage that Surkamp speaks the vocal over to great effect. It feels like something that Hogarth era Marillion would do, but instead of bursting into a huge keyboard explosion as H & Co would, Pavlov's Dog move into an almost children's singalong that counterpoints what has come before perfectly. It is this skill and restraint that touches all the songs on this album and makes it such a joy from start to finish.

'Echo & Boo' is a quite remarkable return from a band that still has an amazing amount to offer.

Steven Reid

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