Calling The Dogs – Citizen Album Review

Written by on October 16, 2023

Review by Aidan Smith

Unfortunately, Citizen never really clicked with me until I caught them live, touring for their 2021 release Life In Your Glass World. Mat Kerekes came across to me frankly as a run of the mill “defend pop-punk” era songwriter with nothing differentiating Citizen from the slew of other early 2010s emo and pop-punk acts that were popular during or around the time. I guess I was wrong, shame on me. Citizen’s 2023 release Calling The Dogs keeps things refreshing while falling back on some generic production – it’s a welcome addition to this year’s ever growing list of alt-rock heavy hitters.

On the positive side, Mat Kerakes sounds great on this album – his energetic choruses really shine, specifically on the track “When I Let You Down” which features a winding chorus reminiscent of early 2000s indie rock classics. “Lay Low” is a track I could find corny, but I don’t – Citizen’s confidence allows the track to be pulled off almost effortlessly. The chorus has an interesting melody that feels refreshing, mixing melodic synth notes with fast and aggressive vocals and drumming – it’s somewhere in between punk and indie-pop, produced almost like an album released by pop-rock monoliths “Portugal. The Man” or something. It works really well about 75% of the time. Catchy riffs, hooks and choruses hold the album down, it’s a pleasure to listen to – it’s commercially crunchy with fun lyrics that super glue themselves to your brain.

“Dogs” has been that anthemic, energetic, rambunctious top of my chart rager that, despite some lyrics that make me cringe – “im calling my dogs and we’re gonna get rough” – sustain an exciting energy that makes me eager to circle pit with all of the emo frat bros on Citizen’s run with Narrowhead in November.

“Takes One To Know One,” the albums closer, is a sun-soaked, energetic track that might be my favorite of Citizen’s music point blank – it also contains some of the best vocal delivery on the album.

Calling The Dogs can sometimes sound like Citizen reaching to be featured in a target advertisement: The song “Options” is, for me, a bona fide dud – it sounds like a B-Side off of The Strokes’ Angles. We’re all just begging for more “Machu Picchu,” right? There are moments on this album that feel overproduced and underwhelming for it, the album doesn’t come across as raw, it comes across as pure pop-rock – a band in the midst of commercial advent, half “Knockdown Center” half “Good Morning America.” Overall, it works. I like it quite a bit, despite some (in my opinion) glaring flaws. Mat Kerekes has some of the most impressive vocal delivery in the game right now. While Citizen’s music may be shifting from a heavier, more unique tone to a softer, maybe played out one – there is still so much to enjoy here.

Favorite Tracks: “Takes One To Know One,” “Dogs,” “Needs,” “When I Let You Down,” “Lay Low”
Least Favorites: “Options”

Image from Amazon.

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