Dr. Dog are one of those bands that wear their heart on their sleeve. They write songs that seem instantly recognizable, yet are wholly and completely from Dr. Dog's slightly psychedelic, slightly melancholy universe. Since 2007s We All Belong, Dr. Dog have built a very strong and dedicated fanbase. They've also amassed their share of naysayers for also wearing their influences proudly on their sleeves. The Band, Beach Boys, Beatles, Velvet Underground, Philly Soul and 90s lo fi bands like Sebadoh, Pavement, and Guided By Voices have haunted the songs of Dr. Dog from the start, beginning with their eponymous debut Toothbrush. Despite backlash, naysayers and generally cranky, bitter idiots, Dr. Dog have returned with their best album to date, Be The Void.
`Lonesome' starts the album out with the line "What does it take to be lonesome, nothin' at all", then proceeds to get into some slide guitar blues swoon, gutter stomp rhythms and call and response background vocals that gives this song something Dr. Dog have only hinted at in the past: swaggar. They've often hinted at this sort of track in the past but never fully commited. A great track to start things out on. `That Old Black Hole' keeps things going with it's infectious rhythm, courtesy of Eric Slick, and an almost jubilant rolling chorus. `These Days' rolls in with the most modern sounding track to date for Dr. Dog. A fast, upbeat track with a constant, pulsating bass line from Toby Leaman and a great piano line. If the Strokes could write something that wasn't ironic or tongue-in-cheek, then they might be able to pull this excellent track off. But they can't. Dr. Dog can, and do with vigor. `How Long Must I Wait' follows with a great, almost caribbean vibe. Scott McMicken has such a great longing to his vocals. This is an absolutely great track. One of their best to date.
The album never lets up. With the McMicken/Leaman vocal trade offs every other song(something they've done every album) it keeps things moving quickly and keeps the listener waiting for what's coming next. There's also a real dance-y vibe to these songs. They seem to have fully embraced their 70s Philly Soul roots and have let drummer Eric Slick give these songs the groove they've always longed for. There's not a bad song on this album. The last half of Be The Void holds the biggest surprise, though. `Warrior Man' starts out with glitchy computer sounds then falls into a T.Rex vibe and riff and turns into a glam rock groove extravaganza. A Girlfriend-era Robert Quine-like frenzied freak out guitar solo takes this track to the stratosphere.'Turning The Century' finishes the album out with a sitar, dobro and a beautiful descending melody with McMicken singing "I been singing for so long, I go from door to door, but it ain't the song I'm singing for", thus ending what will surely be one of the best records to bless our ears in 2012.
Be The Void feels like the most consistent and modern record from Dr. Dog to date. Tracks like `These Days', `How Long Must I Wait' and especially `Warrior Man' have opened the doors of possibility even wider for these Philly boys. If you don't like Dr. Dog, check to make sure you have a pulse.
Now flip the record, lay the needle down, and Be The Void. Repeat.