Call it the curse of the dog. With a sound that reminds listeners of The Byrds, Beatles, The Beach Boys, or The Band, a little backlash is inevitable. Last week, The Village Voice, lobbed the first rocket, when Bret Gladstone labeled Dr. Dog as the Colonial Williamsburg of music. Behind the guise of an extended metaphor is the criticism that by being reminiscent of Seventies pop and country rock, the musicians in Dr Dog are being inauthentic. Gladstone has himself a nice metaphor, but the hard truth is that with the exception of a very few, all new rock music is connected to the bands and musicians that have preceded it. You can use the Colonial Williamsburg metaphor on nearly every new release in the year 2007 whether the basis for your argument is the aforementioned “B” bands, or the more traditional hipster influences like Kraftwerk, Can, Joy Division, and Devo. Having an all-star sounds-like list hardly diminishes the fact that Dr Dog have gone out and crafted a damn near impeccable piece of guitar pop.
Album opener “Old News” sets the tone for We All Belong. The reverence to the great songwriters of old is instantly evident, yet, with the thump in the bass guitar, the bounce in the piano, and bassist Toby Leamans soulful vocal delivery, Dr Dog show a sense of playfulness and exuberance that’s really quite refreshing. Listening to “Old News” it’s easy to imagine the boys kicking back a few, having some good laughs, and at the same time, laying down a memorable melody. “The Girl” sounds very Lennon-esque, but again, it’s in their delivery that they’re able to peak from behind a legend’s shadow. They play this one loose, almost sloppy — always teetering on the brink of disintegration, only to repeatedly rescue the melody at the very point it could be lost for good.
There’s plenty more where Dr Dog shine: the daydream inducing “My Old Ways”, the sad and soulful “Alaska,” and the perky pop of “Ain’t It Strange. Perhaps the song that best encapsulates We All Belong is the wistful “Weekend,” with its play by play instructions for a Friday, “Weekend is coming soon/It’s time to pick yourself up off the floor/Lets’ grab a case of lager and some old beat up shoes/Head on to the river and strap on a canoe.” It’s not just “Weekend” but all over We All Belong, there’s that feeling that this music is made by a close-knit group of friends, meant to be shared by your close group of friends.
It shouldn’t be a knock on Dr Dog that they remind you of so many talented musicians. Instead, it should be a glowing compliment. Discount these songs at your own danger. If you’re unable to take a step back, open your ears, and let this magnificent work sink in, you’ll be missing out on one memorable record.
MP3:Dr Dog – Alaska [download] MP3:Dr Dog – My Old Ways [download]
Dr. Dog’s We All Belong is an astonishing 9 out of 10 on The Rockoeter