Dr. Dog Live @ The Neptune
February 14, 2012
By Barry Vail
Dr. Dog have arguably one of the best bad band names in rock n’ roll. Their music is a combination of sound touching on classic and psychedelic rock layered with poppy goodness, R & B, Philly soul, old time rag, and garage rock. They’re never afraid to throw some “oh-la-la’s” down on a track, and they got three part harmonies that’ll cause goose bumps.
After seein’ them for my very first time back at the old Crocodile in 2005 (opening for Earlimart) I smoked cigarettes and shot the shit with guitarist/vocalist Scott McMicken, bassist/vocalist Toby Leaman, and guitarist Frank McElroy outside. They are gracious, cool dudes. No egos, just guys who had a blast playing their asses off for an hour and were appreciative that some drunk dork like myself thought the world of it.
Be The Void, Dr. Dog’s latest LP, sounds dirtier and less polished then their previous two efforts Fate and Shame, Shame. It feels like it could’ve been released after the band’s second album Easy Beat in 2006 or 2007, which isn’t to suggest that it’s a step backwards. In fact, it’s one of their strongest records to date.
The stand out tracks are “Big Girl”, “How Long Must I Wait” and “Lonesome”, but there aren’t any stinkers on this album. It’s a complete work that covers universal themes like loss, longing, nostalgia and hope, Be The Void is an album you will want to play through from start to finish.
The band has been compared to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Flaming Lips; complimentary praise but perhaps a bit over the top. They have more similarities with their benefactors My Morning Jacket (Jim James helped put Dr. Dog on the map by enlisting Dr. Dog as MMJ’s opening act after listening to their EP handed to him by a band member’s girlfriend).
The shared lead singing duties between McMicken and Leaman, the layered arrangements and harmonies, that rustic sound with nods to oldies rock and roll and rhythm and blues make me think of The Band. But there’s that Philly soul in there too, which makes that comparison to Dylan’s first backing rock band a’lil farfetched too.
Yeah, Dr. Dog is tough to nail down like that, and that’s what makes them special. It’s also what makes them one of America’s great touring rock and roll bands – if these are the musicians you’re being compared to, you better be really good when you hit that stage.
Luckily for Dr. Dog, they are a consummate touring band that catches fire when they perform live, the result of playing in countless shitty bars. and more recently at America’s largest festivals, during their decade on the road. They engage the crowd with complete enthusiasm and lose themselves in the song, the sound, the moment … then charm you with funny drunken ramblings in the break between another passionate display of noise.[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4sLHWQrexA&feature=youtu.be]
Come on out to the band’s performance at The Neptune on Valentine’s Day. I believe you’ll be won over by the good doctor.