With B-Room, Dr. Dog has begun the process of highlighting various aspects of the densely crafted sound they’ve developed over their decade-plus together. Like their previous efforts, recorded in their own self-designed and constructed recording studio (newly rebuilt from its Meth Beach predecessor), the Philly sextet bring melody to the forefront on songs like “The Truth” without succumbing to treacle.
For instance, there’s an ominous undercurrent to this opening cut, echoed in the peppier “Love,” that contrasts effectively with the bright vocal harmonies that billow upward as the track concludes. The edgy number that follows, “Broken Heart,” is more reminiscent of the Dog’s earlier work, such as We All Belong, but maintains continuity with the previous album, Be The Void, particularly when Scott McMicken’s twisting turning electric guitar lines entwine the boyish vocal tones of Toby Leaman’s.
In fact, there is just enough familiar about B Room to prevent the dozen new songs from distancing fans or jarring novices. The Beatlesque overtones of “Distant Light,” the only real homage to roots here, sounds like nothing so much as an outtake from The White Album and it carries an internal rhythm evincing the unity of Dr. Dog as a band; it’s a virtue not always been prevalent in the past when, on occasion, befitting the studio scientists they are, their recordings ended up ever-so-slightly sterile. Within B-Room, however, there’s just as often tangible warmth present that’s a natural extension of the group’s idiosyncratic sense of humor.
Cryptic lyrics like those on “Minding the Usher,” in these ever so slightly smoother surroundings, are of a piece with the confessional slant of “Too Weak to Ramble.” Preceding the heavily horn laden “Long Way Down”, this cut’s virtually solo acoustic arrangement indicates how comfortable (though not complacent) Dr. Dog have become with their original material as well as the recording of it. They resist the temptation to indulge their sonic expertise, instead rendering this collection in an economical, concise fashion.
The participation of multi-instrumentalist Dmitri Manos and drummer Eric Slick, now both firmly ensconced in the lineup, no doubt figures into that efficiency as their participation allows for more live recording, rather than overdubbing, thereby furthering the clarity of musicianship (not to mention the audio mix). That sensation’s heightened on the final track, “Nellie,” where keyboard textures shift against guitars over a firm rhythm foundation, imparting a finality to B Room that reaffirms its overall logic.