“Are you moving much to fast and the good times just don’t last/ if your always on the go/ make an angle in the snow/ and freeze/ Do you feel like your stuck in time/ forever waiting on that line/ if nothing ever moves/ put that needle to the groove/ and sing”
These are the inspirational opening words to the new Dr. Dog old time, rock revival record on the track “The Breeze”. After eleven years, the Philadelphia natives have honed in their sixties throwback, pop-psychedelic sound to perfection, and on their fifth record, Fate, the tunes are catchier than ever. What’s more important is they still manage to hold on to that “home recorded” production style, forcing the listener to turn up the volume and enjoy.
Referring to themselves by their aliases, Taxi, Trouble, Thanks, Tables, and Text, the rock and roll that has been coming out of their creative minds is reminiscent of times past, calling on The Beatles and The Beach Boys for inspiration while still keeping true to themselves.
Having made a name for themselves, thanks to a break from My Morning Jacket in 2004, it was their third album, Easy Beat, that was first noticed by the music media the following year, when they first made the festival rounds in support of that very record. 2006 would bring more success for the band as they embarked on tours with The Black Keys and The Raconteurs. So as you can tell, success has been a long time coming. And now in 2008, Dr. Dog is gracing magazine covers, such as Relix, following up previous success with a new critically acclaimed record.
From the opening notes, Fate presents itself as highly involved for the listener, a record that demands attention and thought. The harmonies come in as “ooos” and “ahhhs” with do-wop backing vocals. The track ends with highlights from various woodwinds, starting a trend for the rest of the record by having the songs end in different places than they began. The vocal duties trade back and forth between Taxi (Scott McMicken) and Tables (Toby Leaman). Taxi has a higher, younger tone while Tables takes on a more R&B and aged style, that strains at points, adding an element of passion to the lyrics. Tables, who also plays bass, makes a debut on “Hang On”, incorporating a tasteful slide guitar and jazzy piano as he romances and sings of a broken heart. The songs flow from one into the other, and in this case, “The Old Days” opens with a catchy piano lick that is very carnival-esque and carries the song though. The chorus takes the track in a new direction and the last half wraps the elements together.
As the vocalists trade lead roles, so does the direction of the songs, making this a very fun album to listen to as no two songs are ever similar. In other words, there is no filler. “The Ark”, as lead by Leaman, really shows off the bands song writing ability lyrically, being the most poetic song I have heard from the band. His signature soulful growl with sly guitars and bayou organs make up the core of the track. That somber theme carries right into the bluesy 60’s pop ballad, “From”, which features a guitar solo that’s not an outlandish embellishment, but rather fits right into the tone of the song. The keys pick back up and turn the sound into a lost track from The Band.
A song like “The Beach” threw me back in my chair. Never have I heard such passion and power in a voice and song. While McMicken (guitar, keys, vocals) carries the pop aspect of the record very well, Leaman shows his guns on this track as it brings in the old Robert Johnson days of raw Mississippi delta blues. Closing the album, “My Friend” rounds out the journey using all the previous elements to produce something more modern. It switches gears half way through, bidding us ado with lyrics, “no one who ever leaves is never welcome back”, ending with a train fading into the distance.