Under Review/Streets Of My Town: Dr. Dog – Shame, Shame

Dr. Dog is one tricky band.  On the one hand, they’ve established their sound so well that you can mostly expect what you’ll hear on each new album.  Then again, they’ve always maintained an imaginative unpredictability that has kept even their most devoted followers eager to hear what’s next.  To that effect, Shame, Shame, the boys’ first album for Anti- Records (and sixth full-length overall) is a rather unusual set.  Beginning with a pair of songs that would have fit snugly on 2008’s Fate (Toby Leaman’s “Stranger” and Scott McMicken’s “Shadow People”), Shame, Shame seems like it’s going to be yet another solid Dr. Dog album.  Not that there’d be anything wrong with more wistful melodies, playful rhythms and wondrous harmonies, but there are a number of musical surprises that the guys are holding back.  The real character of Shame, Shame comes in the form of “Unbearable Why,” which ups the tempo from an ambling bounce to a modest shuffle.  This is Dr. Dog’s version of dance music, a shift that makes sense given the band’s publicized desire to make their records more strongly reflect the energy of their live shows.  This kind of acoustic funk is further explored in “Later,” a song that also features chiming guitars and a near-disco bassline.

To those who might find the notion of a funky Dr. Dog a little off-putting, know that there are still plenty of classic moments to be found on Shame, Shame.  Each of the guys’ albums is bound to feature a gorgeously tender moment, and this time around it’s “I Only Wear Blue.”  The song echoes Fate’s “From” and We All Belong’s “Keep A Friend” in presenting a simple yet incredibly effective lyric.  For some reason, “Excuse me/Forgive me/I only wear blue” tugs at my heartstrings more than any other line on the album.  The band’s frequent concern with time and aging appears yet again on Shame, Shame; overtly on “Where’d All The Time Go?,” less so on the countrified “Station.”  For this album, Dr. Dog worked with producer Robert Schnapf, best known for his work with Elliott Smith.  Though I’m not sure how much of the late songwriter’s stylistic spirit is present on Shame, Shame, there is a certain amount of introspection that recalls Smith’s hushed emotionalism.  Towards the end of the disc, the songs get a little darker (only lyrically, that is), with “Jackie Wants A Black Eye” and the Jim James-aided title track rounding out the album.  Shame, Shame is definitely a grower when compared to Dr. Dog’s other efforts, but its slowly-releasing charms are well worth the time they take to unfold.

Click HERE to stream Shame, Shame (via NPR Music)

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~ by E. on April 5, 2010.

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