Be The Void
Often in music, especially music criticism, we are constantly looking for the next big thing or focus on bands that are pushing the envelope and bending genres. What can often be missed though is the sheer enjoyment that can come to simply listening to a great song regardless of whether it innovates or not. Thus is the space that we find Dr. Dog, a band that unabashedly pulls no punches but simply takes their musical style from the three immortal “B” Bands of the 60’s: The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and The Band. My initial feelings towards the scrappy Philadelphia quintet was hesitancy over their imitation-over-innovation approach, but ultimately the melodies and harmonies took hold, and the band has held a special place in my heart for the last five years. Their seventh album, Be The Void, sticks mostly to the classic Dr. Dog formula but is also their most noisy, rollicking album to date, although a bit inconsistent.
Be The Void opens with two of its strongest tracks in “Lonesome” and “That Old Black Hole”. “Lonesome” is classic junkyard dog rock ‘n’ roll, with howling pedal steel, bluesy harmonica, raggedy percussion, and a fun mix of shouting and singing. While “Lonesome” sounds fun and carefree, “That Black Old Hole” while relying on fun wordplay, is steered like a strong ship constantly picking up steam through the strong current of stormy production, constantly becoming faster and more assured.
While Be The Void stands as a highly enjoyable ride, it no doubt gets stale at moments. “Do The Trick” gets fairly old in its repetition in the type of persistent song they have done much better in the past. “How Long Must I Wait” follows another standard Dr. Dog song formula with its reverb-heavy percussion, one note piano line, and the big sweeping bridge but isn’t feverishly catchy like other songs that fit this formula. “Over Here, Over There” has the same sort of manic build of “That Old Black Hole”, but with much fewer fun studio tricks and harmonies.
Dr. Dog does bring a couple new tricks to the table in two of Be The Void’s biggest highlights in back-to-back treats “Vampire” and “Heavy Light”. “Vampire” slays with its boisterous lead guitar and a hysterical vocal performance from bassist/part-time vocalist Toby Leaman who sounds like another legendary bassist (McCartney) who was known for some incredible vocal rave ups. “Heavy Light” stands as a genre clash from its general post-punk aesthetic mixed with warm pop vocals, Indian guitar melodies, and dance hall piano and percussion, with it all being spliced together remarkably.
Other standouts include “Big Girl”, whose big bouncy hooks sort of plays like their “Baby You’re A Rich Man”, a diamond in the rough Beatles gem, and “Warrior Man”, which is a big slow glam rocker that would make David Bowie proud.
Thus we land at very much where we started. Dr. Dog doesn’t look to reinvent the wheel on Be The Void, but rather has created what is sure to be one of the most fun rock ‘n’ roll albums of 2012, even if it falls short of their very best albums, Easy Beat and We All Belong.
Can’t Miss: “Lonesome”, “Vampire”, “Heavy Light”, “Big Girl”
Can’t Hit: “Do The Trick”, “Over Here, Over There”
If you wish to read an extended version of this review, check out my review over at RELEVANT.