Philadelphia Rockers Earn a Treat

    Dr. Dog

    Shame, Shame

    ANTI-

    Rating: 7 / 10


    The Philadelphia-based group Dr. Dog may have a name that implies out-there eccentricity, but they don’t just revel in their uniqueness; instead, the band’s latest effort, Shame Shame, is laced with a smattering of old-school throwbacks heavily influenced by the likes of Paul Simon, The Beatles, Elton John and The Band.

    Leaving behind the slick pop-production and ‘90s noise of previous albums, here the quintet goes for a more homegrown ‘60s sound. With varied vocal effects and shifting instrumentation, each song almost represents a different genre of music — subsequently giving the album less cohesiveness, but more individuality. Dr. Dog combines sentimentality with Elton John’s slick playing, Paul Simon-like harmonies and live-show energy.

    On “Strangers,” there’s an odd, childlike synthesis of horns and keyboard, complete with gang vocals in the background. Lead singers Toby Leaman and Scott McMicken wail with earnestness, singing about loss of identity and confusion in the big city. First single “Shadow People” mixes up the indie vibe with a Ryan Adams homage, complete with witty lines about “looking high and looking low.” The vocals are gritty, as the group pushes for honesty. Add the country twang of the guitar with gang vocals, and the rock ballad makes for a perfect car soundtrack.

    When the band tries to get more serious, the album reaches its weak points. Songs like “Station” are more folksy, with emphasis on acoustic and bass guitars. The singers take on a more rugged tone, but the bouncy energy the album begins with is lost as a result.

    Album high point “Later” opens with a string-laced ballad, adding a marching band intro and a fast-paced guitar. It sounds like a mix of Vampire Weekend and Conor Oberst, especially with lines like “I can’t sit around and wait/ Can’t sit around and wait for you.” The subtle lover’s plea gives way to an outburst of swearing in the midst of an otherwise ethereal woodsy folk song.

    It’s difficult to find indie bands that provide plucky keyboard melodies and guitar solos laced with Led Zeppelin-like speed on the same album. Dr. Dog has done the near impossible in modern music — creating a multifaceted album that almost anyone can enjoy.

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