The Format (Nate Ruess and Sam Means) is as jaded about the music industry as bands come. After the pair released 2003's Interventions and Lullabies and scored a minor hit with the snappy, catchy "The First Single," their label was folded into Atlantic Records, which ultimately dropped the Format. With Dog Problems, released on their own Vanity Label imprint, Means and Ruess respond with the alt-country stomper "The Compromise": Find a partner and grab a pen/Don't you dare ask questions, just sign on the dotted line. The album isn't all music-biz nose-thumbing, however. Dog Problems was also fueled by an intense breakup of the romantic sort. But instead of treading clichéd ground, Ruess employs metaphors far more convincing than his peers' overused images of plunging knives and spilling blood, as the lyrics to "Matches," "Oceans" and acoustic standout "Snails" demonstrate. The music jumps time signatures and musical styles with equal ingenuity, whether evoking dance-rock ("Time Bomb"), '60s surf ("She Doesn't Get It") or the title track's Broadway-show-tune orchestral grandeur. Then there's closer "If Work Permits," an gleeful stomper filled with rapid-fire guitars and furious harmonies. Hey, I'm doing all right! Ruess and Means shriek. Females? Financial backing? Based on Problems, freedom suits the Format more than those things combined.