Dr Dog – Be The Void
Words by Scenewave Australia - Published on June 22, 2012
While not the freshest of releases (the album dropped in February 2012) Dr Dog’s Be The Void has received enough repeat listens since I acquired it some weeks ago for me to summon the focus and concentration and write a review. I can assure you all, this happens rarely. As their seventh studio release Be The Void is surely Dr Dog’s most accomplished and assured pop record yet, its dozen tunes traversing the musical lanes of folk, indie rock, alt-pop and country funk with a verve and fluidity that marries the kooky sounds and indie aesthetic of their earlier records with a refined style of songwriting and production that was missing in previous Dr Dog records.
I first came across this Pennsylvanian band around five years ago when sifting through some review copies of CDs that my music editor had been thoughtless enough to leave unguarded on his desk and came across their third LP We All Belong. The band name rang a bell as I had seen them listed as support for the My Morning Jacket tour of Australia in 2007 so I took the CD home and found it to be an interesting, though hardly awe-inspiring, collection of indie folk and psychedelic pop tunes that showed the occasional glimpse of the band’s ability to craft the memorable melodies and sweet harmonies.
With this album Dr Dog have delivered on their potential in creating a sound that recalls the effortless blues rock swagger of the Black Keys, the sweetly sung folk harmonies of Fleet Foxes and the psychedelic flourishes of MGMT while still retaining a musical signature all of its own. Singing duties are shared between lead guitarist Scott McMicken and bass player Toby Leaman and the distinctive timbres of both voices do much to influence the tone of each of their respective songs. ‘Get Away’ is a lilting anthem that showcases the group’s amazing ability to harmonise with two and even three-part vocal harmonies and ‘Do the Trick’ is a perfectly crafted pop song that would not have been out of place on the Beach Boys’ classic Pet Sounds. Leaman makes excellent use of his raspy growl to give some bite to the vocals in the slow rock burner ‘Vampire’ and McMicken’s conversational vocal style expertly rides the propulsive beat of the rhythm section in ‘Big Girl’, an instantly memorable tune that is virtually impossible not to nod your head along with.
Be The Void record represents a professional and creative peak for the six-piece band and is the culmination of an increasing willingness to use the technology of the recording studio and all its limitless options for sonic manipulation, to realise an artistic vision that began with We All Belong. This vision aimed to channel the raw energy of their live shows in the studio without compromising the music’s immediacy and spontaneity. The variety of styles and sounds employed by Dr Dog in this album continually defy expectations from song to song while their tight arrangements and rolling lines of drummer Dimitri Manos keep the listener in an easy groove throughout. The consistency of the songwriting and quality of production in Be the Void should make it a breakthrough album for Dr Dog and a great introduction to those who haven’t heard any of their music, while confirming their status as one of the most interesting groups in the current crop of indie pop bands to those who have.