Album review: Dr. Dog fills two-year void for fans by releasing new album, ‘Be the Void’

By Courtney Goforth

Album review: Dr. Dog fills two-year void for fans by releasing new album, ‘Be the Void’

“Be the Void”
(ANTI- Records)
Rating: 4 stars

Welcome to the Dr. Dog show. Enter the quintet from Pennsylvania that has made its mark through energetic live shows and quirky lyrics. Hipster hip-shaking and rhythmic beats shall ensue.

Dr. Dog released its sixth studio album, “Be the Void,” Feb. 3 of this year with the intent to professionalize and prune its raw sound that has been stacked together in its quaint Pennsylvania studio since 1999.

“Be the Void” illustrates the emptiness created by the monotonous routine of releasing an album, then touring and putting that playlist on repeat.

”It’s hard, when you spend half your time away from your friends and family, to feel like you’re as connected as you could be to the people around you,” vocalist and bassist Toby Leaman said on their website.

“I think that’s a lot of what this album is about. ‘I’m alone of my own making’ — that attitude. You see that all these people have lives and things go on and on, and if you’re in a band, it’s pretty much static.”

Band members Toby Leaman, Scott McMicken, Frank McElroy, Zach Miller and Eric Slick, otherwise known by their band nicknames Tables, Taxi, Thanks, Text and Teach, respectively, paired up with Rob Schnapf, who has produced tracks for Beck and Elliott Smith, to clean up their sound.

With the first shake of the tambourine on “These Days,” the album places you alongside a beach, driving with the top down and wind in your hair. Leaman sings, “Why you wanna go now?/I don’t wanna go now/Even though my friends are on/And the music’s on.”

Dr. Dog candidly admits its sound is heavily inspired by music from the ’50s and ’60s and their inclination to styles from those decades shines throughout the album.

“Turning the Century” compiles simple harmonies and clever lyrics, which consummate a unique, modern-day Bob Dylan vibe like the lyrics, “Mouth of the river/Spit out the sea/Shake the hands of time/Turning the century.”

“Over Here, Over There” also embodies Bob Dylan influences with peace-induced lyrics, such as “I tip my cap to the heavy, heavy rain/I wave hello when I see a snake go by/I ain’t a fighter, never been in a fight/Can’t get no answers from the other guy.” Other tracks, such as “Heavy Light,” “Warrior Man” and “Do the Trick” all lend themselves to influences from Dylan and The Beatles.

“Be the Void” flows from each song to the next, maintaining one story line in effortless continuity. Each track’s successor makes sense in its place to carry on the sequence. Dr. Dog maintains a light-hearted contentment with the unhappiness it experiences in this void, with the exception of “Vampire,” which unleashes built-up anger it holds for the person it describes as a vampire that does “no reflecting at all/You never think what you do really hurts/You’re always giving me maybe, If I get something at all.”

Loyal to Dr. Dog’s style, “Be the Void” brings back its ’50s- and ’60s-inspired taste and deliciously hip melodies for its fans that experienced almost a two-year void from the release of its last album in 2010, “Shame, Shame.” Well, shame on Dr. Dog for not filling this void sooner.

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