Following several years within an inflated secondary market, the reissue of The Format’s final full length album, titled Dog Problems, was met with open arms by fans. The initial run of 1,000 copies on white vinyl sold out quickly and was replaced by a black variant, which doesn’t seem to be limited to any real number. And while it was nice to just have a chance at purchasing the long-time “white whale” of my personal collection, it was even nicer to see the spotlight back on such a truly great album. Between the introspective 1-2 punch of “Matches” and “I’m Actual”; to the emotionally devastating blows of the title track; to the perfect pop melodies present in tracks like “Dead End” and “Time Bomb,” Dog Problems is simply put, a showcase of an extremely talented duo. What Nate Ruess (Fun.) and Sam Means were able to do (with quite a few friends helping out instrumentally) is craft a 12-track effort, in which not one second of the 47-minute running time is wasted. And thankfully, it doesn’t look like those 47 minutes will be forgotten by the emo and indie rock scenes any time soon.
My purchase required a quick clean (if you’re not cleaning your records, you’re not listening to the best possible sound), but afterwards a beautiful sounding record was unearthed, nearly vacant of all surface noise. Bigger moments, like the crescendo in album opener “Matches,” are well represented, the multitude of appearing instruments mostly making their mark. The vocal work of Nate Ruess also comes through clean, except in times of purposeful distortion.
The low end is a little shaky, though, with bass work slightly muted at times. The percussion can get buried, as well, in songs such as “The Compromise.” On the other hand, when they allow such percussion proper breathing room, it makes a world of difference in songs like “Time Bomb” and “She Doesn’t Get It.” “Snails” is another which comes out pretty well perfect, the bass-line anchoring the track thankfully remaining. And as Ruess and Means jump into the line, “My family’s not rich by any means,” you can feel a vibrant life coming from the recording.
You can certainly tell that the band, and specifically Means, had a big hand in making sure the test pressings sounded excellent for this release.
The die-cut front cover is the obvious highlight, as many of the dogs on the front fold out into different panels on both the left and right sides. It’s not a triple gatefold in the traditional sense, as the initial sale listing stated, but it is impressive none the less. The two records then slide comfortably in a slot in the top of the packaging. My only concerns with the structure of the package would be its longevity, as I’m already getting a few bends in the fold out panels. The jacket isn’t made out of the sturdiest material.
The white vinyl records are housed in decorated inner sleeves, each of which contain the respective track lyrics. And finally, an etching of a dog bowl is on the D-side, which is a nice sight when shining a little light on your second disc.
When launching pre-orders, there was quite a bit for fans to choose from, including the limited white variant by itself; an eventual black variant (still including the die-cut packaging); a couple bundles featuring the pressings of Interventions & Lullabies and the die-cut Swans 7″; and an album T-shirt with the art on it. The best extra, though, actually came because of a delay. After having to push back the delivery of Dog Problems on a few occasions, the band threw in bonus download codes for The Kenneth Room Sessions, which features 7 demos from the making-of process.
The highly anticipated vinyl reissue of The Format’s Dog Problems is worthy of the album’s musical quality, presenting sharp sound with inventive packaging. The sound could have used a bit of refining on the low end, with bass and percussion proving to be problematic at times, but overall, you should be satisfied. The packaging may be a bit fragile, but when you try something “out of the box” like this die-cut presentation, you may be taking that risk. You’ll be happy with this pressing on your shelf, no question.
“Time Bomb,” “She Doesn’t Get It,” “Snails” & “If Work Permits”
You can still pick up the pressing on black vinyl over at The Format’s merch store.