[MUSIC: Album Review] Dr Dog – Be The Void
Be The Void
Philly mainstays Dr Dog may have always seemed anachronistic given their self-declared love of late-‘60s/early-‘70s music, but that hasn’t stopped them from amassing a dedicated fanbase – who regularly bestow on them ‘best band in the world’-type sobriquets – or from regularly slaying various US festivals.
The sextet’s last album, 2010’s Shame, Shame, was a quiet songwriting triumph for chief tunesmiths/vocalists Scott McMicken and Toby Leaman, with songs like ‘Shadow People’ and the title track being full of unassuming, yet glorious classicist hooks. Co-produced by the band and Nathan Sabatino, Be The Void is a more stripped-down effort than its predecessor – and it feels even more organic and cohesive as the result.
The rickety, slide riff-driven opener Lonesome, with its insistent, infectious ‘What does it take to be lonesome? Nothing at all!’ refrain, echoes The Band (mostly due to the uncanny vocal similarities with drummer Levon Helm’s deeply soulful singing), while leadoff single ‘That Old Black Hole’ boasts perhaps the most goofily joyous chorus of Dr Dog’s 13-year career (which considering the singalong quality of most of their back catalogue, is no mean feat).
Beautiful Beach Boys-meets-Big Star-inspired vocal harmonies have always been one of the combo’s most effective weapons, and they deploy them with gusto on ‘Do The Trick’ and ‘Get Away’ – the wordless chorus of which recalls The Byrds at their high-flying best. Another standout is the lost-love-themed ‘Vampire’, with its needling, vintage-toned guitars. Dr Dog still love a good ol’ jam, as the wigged-out ‘Warrior Man’ ably attests, but never seem to drown decent melodies in pentatonic licks and organ stabs.
Dr Dog are retro, and they know it.