Photo by Gabriel C. Pérez/KUTX.
Sweet Spirit – Singles EP / A Giant Dog – Neon Bible
by Jeff McCord
Two new releases from the Sabrina Ellis / Andrew Cashen axis, both veering off the beaten path. Once wildly different – Sweet Spirit a nine-piece rave-up, A Giant Dog stripped-down, profane and punkish – their sounds have become harder to distinguish over time. And both band’s output has slowed. Neither has released an album of original material since 2017. Neon Bible is a track-by-track remake of the 2007 Arcade Fire release, commissioned by Merge Records as part of their 30th anniversary. The Singles EP plays cleanup, rounding up three previously released singles, throwing in one new song. Both acts, in no small part because of Ellis’ commanding presence, are thrilling live. The louder and messier things get, the more they seem to lock-in. The new song on the Singles EP, “Wait”, is a rare and powerful slow burner. On Neon Bible, not surprisingly, the band sounds at their best when they sound the most like AGD. They tend to veer from the Arcade Fire playbook and take more liberties with the deeper tracks – “The Well and The Lighthouse”, “Black Wave”, “My Body Is a Cage” – bringing them to a raucous finale. Their craft in recreating someone else’s work is impressive, yet there’s virtually nothing here you would trade for their original material. So when is more of that coming? Ellis and Cashen are gifted collaborators, but Cashen sounded like a man at a crossroads on his recent solo album, Back In Texas. Here’s hoping one or both bands find a way out of their holding pattern soon.