Saturday, February 4, 2012

Dr. Dog "Be The Void" Album Review

By: Kellen Nordstrom
"We would just get in the pocket and go with it because it sounded great. There wasn't this endless deliberating. We just went with our gut feelings on things"-Toby Leaman, Bassist/Vocalist for Dr. Dog; Anti- Records, 2012

The above words are crucial to keep in consideration upon listening to Dr. Dog's newest album, Be The Void, releasing on February 7 via Anti-Records. The Philadelphia band has been churning out loose, upbeat, and passionate rock music since their self-released debut Psychedelic Swamp in 2001, and have built up a strong following that can be described by the same adjectives.

In the effort of full disclosure, I want to admit that I didn't care much for the band before 2010's Shame, Shame... but I thoroughly enjoyed that album. Some of the songs really jumped out at me, and the album became one of my favorites from that year. I have since gone back and listened to previous Dr. Dog albums, and was satisfied with a majority of what I heard. 

With Be The Void, Dr. Dog set out to make an album that channelled the energy from their live shows, and this sentiment is clearly expressed on the album: the guitars and drums are louder, the effects are more plentiful, and the vocals are worthy of a sing-along.

Excitingly, Be the Void begins right where Shame, Shame left off. "Lonesome" is a fantastic lead-off song: rock'n'roll, mixed with a lot of blues influences, and neatly wrapped and delivered in pop-music form. In fact, many of the songs on the album sound incredibly reminiscent of the 2010 album; "Do The Trick," "Get Away," and "These Days" are all extremely catchy and a pure joy to listen to. Meanwhile the closing track, "Turn of the Century," is a true bluegrass song at heart, and the group pulls off these tracks magnificently. 

The track "These Days" brings up my biggest question on the album, though: "Why isn't the song longer?" At a staggeringly short 2:47 (that seems to go by in a minute and a half), one of the album's highlights is cut short at what seems to be the peak of its instruments' crescendo. 

The words of Mr. Leaman mentioned above are ever-apparent while listening to Be The Void. If you couple that with the fact that Dr. Dog decided against bringing in an outside influence for producing the record, it's clear the band wanted to make this record their own way (the band hired Rob Schnapf  as a co-producer for 2010's Shame, Shame. Schnapf coincidentally produced two of my favorite albums of all time: Eliot Smith's XO and Saves The Day's Stay What You Are).

Dr. Dog's latest effort lives and dies by the group's scruples. Be The Void can be great at specific points, but the album gets lost in its attempt at being a completely laid-back album that was made with a completely laid-back approach in mind.  Songs like "Big Girl" "Vampire" and "Warrior Man" try their best to be fun and cathartic, but instead come off lazy at times; many of the instrumental parts are good, but get repetitive and mundane, and the lyrics on all three tracks each lost my interest very quickly. As solid as Be The Void is at times, it can be just as sloppy and (seemingly) phoned-in at others.

Having said that, the album is far from disappointing. There’s a noble thought deep within Be The Void, and that is a band with a ton of experience honing in on what it does best: playing fun, energetic, off-the-cuff, rock'n'roll music. The only downfall is that sometimes, a live show just doesn’t transfer well to headphones, but you really can't blame them for trying.

Album Rating: 3.7/5

Stream the full album exclusively from Team Coco

Dr. Dog will be playing Urban Lounge in FPT's homebase, Salt Lake City on Saturday, February 4. Be sure to check back at Fake Plastic Tunes after this weekend for Nick's coverage of the show! More tour dates can be found below:

06 - Crescent Ballroom - Phoenix, AZ
07 - Belly Up Tavern - Solana Beach, CA
09 - The Observatory - Santa Ana, CA
10 - The Orpheum - Los Angeles, CA
11 - Regency Center Grand Ballroom - San Francisco, CA
13 - Crystal Ballroom - Portland, OR
14 - The Neptune Theatre - Seattle, WA
17 - First Avenue - Minneapolis, MN
18 - The Vic Theatre - Chicago, IL
19 - 20th Century Theater - Cincinnati, OH

01 - Mr. Smalls Theatre - Millvale, PA
02 - Headliners Music Hall - Louisville, KY
03 - War Memorial Auditorium - Nashville, TN
04 - Buckhead Theatre - Atlanta GA
05 - WorkPlay Soundstage - Birmingham, AL
07 - Alabama Music Box - Mobile, AL
09 - Stubb's BBQ - Austin, TX
10 - Fitzgerald's - Houston, TX
11 - Granada Theatre - Dallas, TX
13 - The Blue Note - Columbia, MO
14 - Deluxe at Old National Centre - Indianapolis, IN
15 - The Orange Peel - Asheville, NC
16 - 9:30 Club - Washington, DC
17 - Rams Head Live! - Baltimore, MD
19 - Higher Ground Ballroom - South Burlington, VT
20 - Northern Lights - Albany, NY
22 - House of Blues - Boston, MA
23 - Terminal 5 - New York, NY
24 - The Electric Factory - Philadelphia, PA
25 - The Electric Factory - Philadelphia, PA

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