As the album title would suggest, Dr. Dog has had a few fingers wagged in their direction in the past. But all is forgiven with admitting to the problem, (it is, after all, the first step to recovery). "I do believe/that there's no more tricks up my sleeve" cries Scott McMicken (on the very first track!). Funny, coming from a band that consistently has used the same trick over and over, somehow coaxing tons of fans onto the bandwagon over the past ten years, often to the chargin of "critics." But Shame
is the album we've been waiting for patiently, while twiddling our thumbs and chewing straw, to finally board that wagon with a smile. Dr. Dog still sounds like Dr. Dog. They are still painting that neo-farmhouse jangle, somehow straddling the line between gratuitous freak-folk and 1960s nostalgia. But this time around, it feels real: vibrant, potent, and more engaging than ever before.
It isn't that they've never had successes, "The Old Days" is a good example from recent memory. But they never seemed to break out of their old-world funk across an entire record, lapsing into the more tepid and muted world of blah-ballads and ho-hum musings. And it wasn't a matter of tempo, or stale lyrics, or any one deciding factor. The tracks just didn't pop in the context of today's music climate. But Shame
, particularly the title track, jumps about fifty years past previous Dr. Dog roadblocks. Some of the immediate modernity might be due to the aid of Jim James on "Shame, Shame", but it permeates throughout the album like a (much-needed) warm blanket of relevance. Dr. Dog doesn't sound unstuck in time, rather, like a band that is weaving a new patch in an old tapestry.
And then there are the great successes of Shame
. "Where'd All The Time Go" is a beautiful collection of harmonies intro'd with a voiceover, a recurring synth riff, and contained within the Dr. Dog aesthetic of indie/hillbilly. But when it gets going, it really soars; embodying both an updated feel of hook/chorus marriage and the aesthetic of an instant classic. "I Only Wear Blue" blends those harmonies with an updated bit of very very straightforward Americana, more normal and palatable than much of their oddities. But instead of coming off plain and boring, it seems like a band willing to set aside their tricks in favor of a simpler, subtler approach. Ironically, they then wrote an album full of the flavors that people already attribute to them; a respectable blend of throwback spiced with topical trends.
Perhaps Dr. Dog has passed the point in their career where they try to maintain expectations, or perhaps they've just loosened up a bit. Whatever the case, Shame
is their most honest record to date, and honestly, it's far from a record that requires a finger to tell it how you feel. -joe puglisi
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MP3:"Where'd All The Time Go" - Shame, Shame
Dr. Dog on Myspace