Spin Dat Record: Dr. Dog’s Shame, Shame

I’ve been waiting patiently for Dr. Dog’s new album since their last album, Fate, came out in 2008. Dr. Dog blends catchy Beatles-esque melodies, folk-rock, and psychedelia to create a virtual wall of sound that is complex and distinct. Layered harmonies and fuzz guitar are often featured in the band’s songs, along with ragtime piano, synthesizer, pulsating bass, and the ole tambourine. Dr. Dog sounds like they came straight out of the 1960s, which is what they’re going for, I think. It’s great when a band can channel their influences but not sound like a rip-off.

It’s pretty evident that Dr. Dog has taken notes from bands like the Kinks, the 13th Floor Elevators, The Beach Boys, and the like, but they have morphed the throwback sounds into their own.

Band members Toby Leaman, bassist, and Scott McMicken, rhythm guitarist, usually switch off songs, each writing and singing their own songs. Both have their own songwriting styles and musical arrangements, which I think adds to the well-rounded sound. Leaman’s voice is deep, soulful, and demanding. McMicken’s voice, while soft and whiny at some points, is high and seemingly pitch-perfect. Hearing the juxtaposition of the high and low voices of the two vocalists and the drifting harmonies of the other band members is pretty overwhelming. The new album seems to employ the layered harmony aspect more than any previous one.

Shame, Shame seems to pick up where Fate left off. If you’ve listened to earlier Dr. Dog recordings such as Easy Beat or Toothbrush, you’ll hear that the band was going for a more raw, crude sound.

Shame, Shame is much more polished, refined and “produced” sounding. This isn’t bad, necessarily. Bands generally don’t sound as good on recordings from their earlier albums, but after becoming successful it’s way easier to book time in a nice recording studio complete with all the bells and whistles.

My two favorite songs, “Shadow People” and “Where’d All the Time Go?” are both sung by Scott McMicken, whose songs I tend to like more. He uses imagery that I find really enchanting. His songs are usually the more upbeat ones, too. That doesn’t mean that I’m getting down on the other songs, however. They’re all really good.

I think Dr. Dog is one of the more unique, likeable, and consistently good bands that are on the scene today. I highly recommend purchasing Shame, Shame and all of their other releases. If you like the music you should also go see them at the Cannery Ballroom in Nashville on May 6. I’ve heard they put on a pretty gnarly show. If you can’t make it to that show, you can always catch them at Bonnaroo this summer, too. I’ll be at both so maybe I’ll see you there!