Lost Songs: ‘Dog Problems’ by The Format

jason stives fills in with a song related to this week’s top Billboard single …

This week marked the first time in four years that a rock band scored a No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100. New York indie rockers fun. ascended to the summit with “We Are Young,” probably thanks in part to its placement in a Super Bowl ad. For me, it’s a reassuring sign that a band can have a No. 1 1 single amongst a surge of hip-hop and dance music sludge. This feat probably depresses some music lovers for one of two reasons.

It’s sad that it has taken four years for a band to have a No. 1 single again (the last time any group achieved this was in June 2008, when Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” hit the top spot for a week) It’s sad that fun. achieved this status, let alone achieved a hit single.

Regardless of your cup of Joe when it comes to rock music, it speaks volume to the talent of the men involved. Fun. Doesn’t write to be teen-idol pop, let alone record sellers. The members of this collective are staples of respected pop-rock bands from the past decade who struggled for a creative voice in their respected outfits. The songs on their sophomore release, Some Nights, deal with the complacent neuroticism about relationships that singers like Elvis Costello have always fused into their pop music but in a more 21st century pop setting filled with synthesizers and the occasional drum machine.

For me, this is a monumental achievement for a musician that I have admired for the better part of half a decade. Nate Ruess has been creating infectious pop numbers for a while, dating back to his time as the lead singer of the Arizona rock outfit The Format. The Format’s music first came to my attention in 2006 when they were recommended to me by my prom date, and I immediately procured a copy of their second and eventually final album, Dog Problems. Now this came in the summer of 2006, at a time when I was in transition both in life and in musical taste, which was inherently pop-punk heavy, so the Format wasn’t too much of a stretch, except their sound was more akin to the likes of a Queen record than an Agent Orange record.

Six years on, Dog Problems still remains one of my favorite pop records of all time, a denouement of how to put on a happy face in the worst of times. It’s also the most cheery album about a breakup to ever exist (the album’s title comes supposedly from how Ruess and his girlfriend would always get a new dog every they would fight and break up). The album lies in a sense of denial to its content, deciding to be overly happy when its narrator is clearly creating more issues for himself and acting out of grief and sadness.

The title track is by far the most grab-worthy as far as its genre-hopping, resulting in a Dixieland leg-wager about the inability to compete with the interests of his ex girlfriend and how wrong their relationship was from the start. There is some great wordplay here, as Ruess spits with subtlety about his hatred for boys in swooping air cuts, dance floors and magazines all under a distinctly operatic tone that only cheeky pop music can attest to.