Dr. Dog sound like The Beatles. Or wait, no, they sound more like The Beach Boys. No, no, they sound exactly like The Band. That’s it, they sound like The Band. Wait no, that’s not it, now I’m hearing Gram Parsons. Now Pink Floyd? PINK FLOYD? You guys sound like Pink Floyd right now! What the hell?! Goddammit Dr. Dog, who do you sound like? I know it’s someone. You guys sound exactly like somebody, and someday I will figure it out.
In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the hell out of what you guys do because, when it comes down to it, it’s not who you sound like but what you sound like, and what you guys sound like is pure, feel-good, warm and fuzzy 60s rock.
Dr. Dog make the type of music that is so damn groovy you start to involuntarily squint your eyes, smile, and bob your head, wishing that somehow you could feel like this more often, but all the while grateful to have felt like this at all. Basically, Dr. Dog’s music makes you look and feel like that rare type of pothead who actually knows how to enjoy being stoned.
This stony 60s sound has permeated every Dr. Dog album from their first full-length, 2005’s Easy Beat, to their most expansive record—and my favorite of theirs—2008’s Fate. With Fate, Dr. Dog showed that, not only could they produce music with crunchy hooks and soulful vocals, they could also make songs with ambitious tempo and mood changes in the same league as a band like Built to Spill. Well, almost in the same league.
Dr. Dog’s newest effort, Shame, Shame, is less of a psychedelic journey with twists and turns and more of a soulful meditation on optimism and rustic goodness. In other words, it’s more of the same in the best of ways.
This comfortable and happy vibe is embodied perfectly with the song “Jackie Wants a Black Eye.” The track starts out with a church choir belting out melodies of “oohs” and “aahs” against hand claps and sunny piano chords. This song might be the most joyous noise Dr. Dog has ever produced, but with lyrics like “We’ve been hurting so long that pleasure is our pain,” and “We’re all in this together now, because we all fall apart,” that joy comes with a melancholic message: no matter how joyous a mindset you can attain, sadness and dysfunction are never far behind.
Dr. Dog may acknowledge sadness and dysfunction, but they don’t wallow in it. The songs on Shame, Shame—much like the songs on their previous albums—will continue to provide catharsis for me and like-minded listeners. So, if you see someone in the park with headphones on, bobbing their head with squinty eyes and a goofy smile, they might not be high on the devil’s weed but instead high on the fantastic music Dr. Dog make.
But chances are they’re high on both.