Dr. Dog, the Philadelphia-based indie-rock outfit, released its sixth full-length album, “Shame Shame,” on April 6. In the three years since Dr. Dog moved up from total obscurity (with its album “We All Belong,” which reached No. 30 on the U.S. Billboard chart) to relative obscurity, the group has stuck to what it does best, winning over a growing following of fans and at times perplexing some of the more elitist music critics with their stay-the-course insistence on maintaining their sound. It’s a trite and well-worn cliché to say a band sounds “Beatlesque,” but it’s hard to stay away from that description.
The band’s sound bears a heavy influence from the mixing and layering techniques of later Beatles albums, and the dual vocals of bassist Toby Leaman and guitarist Scott McMicken balance each other out in the way Lennon and McCartney so often did. Throw in some Beach Boys harmonics, wildly blaring horns fading in and out, persistent strings, manic shifts in sounds over the course of a single track, catchy melodies, and that’s Dr. Dog in a nutshell. Oh, but don’t disregard the lyrics, which are often filled with religious allusion and the melancholy of living that’s been echoing around the globe since Hamlet bared his soul to London audiences. Retaining meaning to their lyrics while using an experimental sound has always been one of Dr. Dog’s strong suits.
Here’s a sample from track 10, “Jackie Wants a Black Eye”:
Jackie wants a black eye
Some proof that she’s been hit
And John wants the answers
But the questions just don’t quit
And we’re sitting in the rain
And we’re feeling like the weather.
You could say that we’re alone
Or we’re lonely together
We’re all in it together now
As we all fall apart
And we’re swapping little pieces
Of our broken little hearts.
Perhaps the most notable change in their sound on this album comes from the fact it was recorded in New York with producer Rob Schnap (who has worked with Beck and Elliott Smith). All of Dr. Dog’s previous albums were recorded in their small Philadelphia studio, but this album expands the band’s sounds in even more directions, although perhaps the album isn’t as cohesive as some might like. Nonetheless, the band took a step out of its comfort zone, and the result is an album that relies on retaining its old sound while infusing it with something new.
A solid album, worth listening to even if you’ve never heard of Dr. Dog. If you like this one, check out some of their earlier tunes.
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On an unrelated note, April 17 is Record Store Day, a national event where independent music outlets across the country celebrate the culture of the small-box record store with dozens of special, limited edition releases. Ranch Records in McMinnville is participating, as are a handful of record stores in Portland and Eugene. Check out the participating stores here. Here’s a few highlights of the exclusive Record Store Day releases:
Beach House – Zebra 12” vinyl, includes two new tracks and two alternates from their hit album “Teen Dream.”
Fela Kuti – The 60s and 70s Nigerian musician credited with the creation of the afrobeat jazz genre has four songs from his first record on this 10” EP.
Gorillaz – 10” single release of the song “White Flag” from their 2010 album Plastic Beach.
Jimi Hendrix – 12” colored vinyl album Live @ Clark University, featuring several of his classic jams.
MGMT – 12” vinyl release of their sprawling, 12-minute epic “Siberian Breaks” from the forthcoming album Congratulations.
Paolo Nutini – CD release of his Live @ Preservation Hall EP.
Phoenix – 12” release of their single “Fences” (with alternate takes) on pink vinyl.
TV on the Radio – re-release of their most recent album Dear Science on vinyl, includes free mp3 download and Hot Chip remix.
Columnist Jordan Jacobo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo courtesy of Anti