Dr. Dog: FATE (Album Review)
When I first checked out Dr. Dog, I was impressed with their exquisite pop sensibilities but less so by how they used them. Like Sloan and Locksley, their power pop often veered a little too much towards the “pop” and not enough towards the “power“, and after a couple songs it all just gets boring. On their new album, FATE, they take Wilco’s Being There as a folk-rock-power-pop template and inject everything with pop-hook-boosting-steroids, ending up with a gorgeous sounding album that’s amazingly melodic and expertly constructed.
The album begins with “The Breeze”, which starts off with Tweedy-esque vocals followed by Abbey Road-style harmonies. The song builds up as it progresses, ending with a beautiful woodwinds section a la “Strawberry Fields”. “Hang On” harkens to the alt-country-soul of Sky Blue Sky with more Beatles harmonies. The piano-based “The Old Days” changes things up a bit, as do the dark funky “The Ark” and psych-gospel tinged “The Beach”, but other than that it’s the same beautiful formula all the way through.
The lyrics on the album show Dr. Dog stretching themselves and attempting to make some grand statements about life and living. The ambition pays off and gives the album an epic scope and cohesion. Were Dr. Dog trying to write a really catchy Steinbeck novel? I wouldn’t be surprised if such were the case. There’s definitely evidence of some kind of hard earned wisdom in the beautifully melancholy contained in tracks like “Hang On”, “Army of Ancients”, “The Rabbit, The Bat and The Reindeer” and closer “My Friends”.
The title FATE may carry connotations a little too strong for an album as insanely catchy as this one, but like Pet Sounds (referenced by the train sounds at the end of this album), FATE manages to put everything in perspective and recognize that the pain is just one part of a big beautiful picture. Dr. Dog have met their fate head on and produced an incredible album.