Coming out of Philly, Dr. Dog is a five man band with everyone not only playing an instrument, but also singing. It creates a fun, full, old-timey sound that is unlike much of anything else I’ve heard. They’re one of my top favorite bands, and one of my tippy-top favorite live acts, so when I saw a new album was coming out, I hoped that would mean another Tampa show would be here soon. They’d played as close as St Augustine last March, but I had to miss it because of a friend’s baby shower. There are no Tampa dates on their website, but I’m staying optimistic and using this time to learn every fantastic lyric.
You know how when you love a band and you get their new album, you’re hopeful and excited, but also just a little bit nervous to listen to it? Just a little anxious about having your heart broken when you find that while you’ve been apart they’ve changed and now you have nothing in common any more? Well as soon as I worked up the nerve and pressed play, “Stranger” came on and I knew our reunion would be just as I’d hoped. I instantly loved the lyrics, like the line, “Well I plan to hit the bottom, the bottle, then the top.” Their songs always have great lyrics that are cleanly poetic, without a hint of pretentiousness. And the harmonies hadn’t gone anywhere, either. Happy as a clam, I settled in for the ride and I think I played the album at least 3 times in a row.
Listening to the album, I couldn’t help but think at times of how great some of these songs are going to sound live if/when they head back my way. Songs like “Mirror, Mirror”, with its simple chorus so perfect for singing along to and its frenetic ending that puts an image in my mind of all five of the guys jumping around the stage. Another standout track for me is “Someday”, which caught me off guard at first with how much the crooner-style singing at the beginning reminded me of Jamie Cullum, and then it quickly picked up and got to business.
I also have to mention “Jackie Wants a Black Eye”, which has some of the heaviest lyrics on the album. McMicken discussed it on their site as follows, “I had this one particular night where I was particularly depressed, to the extent that I realized that I needed to get out of the house. So I walked to this bar about four blocks from my house, and I don’t even drink, but I knew I’d run into people that I know, and I ran into my friends Jackie and John, who are both the main characters in the song. It turned out that Jackie and John had arrived at the bar that night in a very similar position, where they were both really bummed out about stuff in their lives, and I stumbled into this situation with two people that I could really easily commiserate with. We sat and talked for a couple of hours, and the way I felt upon leaving there versus how I felt when I showed up was such a radical shift that I couldn’t help but feel like there was some greater significance or something to be incredibly thankful for. I went home that night and I wrote that song.” I don’t know how anyone could resist listening to a song after reading that, so check out the mp3 below.
There’s not really any new direction being taken on this, their sixth full length album, but that’s not a bad thing. Not in the least. Dr. Dog has this classic bluesy, poppy, and super soulful vibe that has one foot in today and one in the 60’s, and they are one of my foolproof go-to cures for a shitty day. This one goes on my personal essential listening list, and if these guys come anywhere near you, don’t walk, run to the show…and tell them to get their asses back to Tampa.