Review Summary: Dr. Dog clean up.
There are always bands that seem to miss the boat. The past few years have seen a huge influx of retro and new wave revivalist musicians, reaching back into time and dragging the ghosts of George Harrison and his Beatles in one hand and the mind and soul of pre-coked up Brian Wilson in the other, jumbled together with a little bit of heart and a little bit of lo-fi crackle. Over the course of five albums, not many have put this combination to better use than Dr. Dog, though that also seems to be one of their biggest problems. Dubbed “derivative” by the lazily critical, they’ve seen most of the fame fly right over their heads. Now with Anti- Records, Shame, Shame may not be their one-stop vehicle to success but it’s a sure bet to set them cruising in the right direction.
With the first few strums of opener “Stranger”, what's immediately noticeable is the uncharacteristically polished production Dr. Dog have utilized, to surprising success. Where much of the charm of past albums seemed to be in their DIY fuzz fun, stepping into the studio draws back the curtains on what really held it all together; the songwriting on Shame, Shame is some of their finest and most focused work yet, pulling the vibrancy of their live set into sunny melodies and rough harmonies that feel sung by a bunch of unkempt kids with sloppy grins and untied shoelaces. Toby Leaman and Scott McMicken’s vocal duties switch from song to song, matching the determined, strain throatiness of Leaman with lines like “I’m not a kid, I’m not a cop, I’m not here to punish you” and fleeting sentiments like “Yesterdays love defines you, and today that loves is gone” with McMicken’s youthful croon. It’s undoubtedly a fan pleaser and those already enamoured with the band will find lots more rootsy Americana to bop their heads to, like the off-kilter, piano tinkering on “Unbearable Why” or the frightened mortality of the folksy “Mirror, Mirror”.
However, it’s the big, psychedelic numbers like “Where’d All The Time Go"” that should turn a few heads, not only as one of the best in their discography but as one of the finest songs of the year so far. It’s unlike any they’ve done before, boasting a chorus that flies right off the backing “ba-ba-ba” harmonies. Though much of the lyrical content does leave something to be desired, it’s all safe enough to accept as neither here nor there, lucky enough to be substantiated by singers who can sell a cheesy line without coming out any worse for wear. Ultimately, Shame, Shame excels at what it does. It’s not very ambitious, it’s not very original, and it’s not very deep, but what it is is fun and what it does is give you a half hour to lose yourself in a little sun-dried nostalgia. I’m fine with that.