Dr. Dog: Be The Void


On first listen to the new Dr. Dog album, Be The Void, the group’s inimitable exultation emerges almost immediately and that, along with a willfully primitive recording style, distinguishes this recording as much as their past work.

This is Dr. Dog’s second album on a major label after a string of independent records, but they are back recording themselves in their own Meth Beach studio. Their earnestly DIY approach pervades this project from its artwork to its recorded sound and on the latter front, their craftsmanship in the studio simply cannot be disguised behind what seems, but really isn’t, less than stellar sound quality.

In fact, the album begins as it ends, with a decidedly rootsy approach on “Lonesome” and “ Turning the Century.” These Philly friends have always exhibited an almost impenetrable whimsy and Be The Void is no exception to that rule: by the time the first track is over, it’s hard not to sing along as if at a folk jamboree, while the concluding track is practically as infectious, tempting to start the dozen tracks playing all over again.
In between, there’s more than a little existential angst in songs like “How Long Must I Wait,” the dark dread of the lyrics brightened most by group harmony vocals: Dr. Dog has always distinguished themselves by their singing but it’s never been more prominent–or moving–than it sounds here during “Get Away” and “Heavy Light.” The expansion of the group’s lineup in the past year, with the recruitment of multi-instrumentalist Dmitri Manos, simultaneous with Eric Slick’s assumption of the drumming post, is reflected here in regular extra percussion, as on the latter track, and the more extensive use of keyboards as background texture throughout.

Still, the personnel shuffle may account for the anomalies within Be The Void. The play on words of “Do the Trick” disguises what might well be misogyny if it weren’t for the soaring harmonies that restore playfulness to the scenario depicted in the lyrics. Meanwhile “Warrior Man,” as irresistibly catchy as it is in its sci-fi oriented character development, stands as a drastic departure from Dr. Dog’s customarily loopy introspection. Perhaps it’s fodder for an extended storyline, but even as a feature spot here for some extended electric guitar, it sounds clumsily out of place late in a song sequence that otherwise has a hidden narrative of its own. Be The Void almost works virtually faultlessly as a self-sufficient song cycle, and a completely contemporary redefinition of what rock and roll can sound like.

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