August 29, 2008
Record Review: Fate
2008 | Park the Van
In the beginning I was a little on the fence about Dr. Dog. It’s that never-ending struggle about bands like The Strokes who clearly wear their influences on their sleeves, and whether these types of bands deserve any merit. Yes, I did eventually come around to the Modern Age EP but really how hard is it to create a great song when you’re stealing from the greats? Of course it’s not as criminal as what P. Diddy did in the 90’s, taking songs that were already hits (“Let’s Dance”) and creating, well, new hits. Why, Sean Combs, it’s so crazy that it just might work and fuck me it did! Certainly, Dr. Dog doesn’t completely fall into either category but you can’t deny that their music sounds a lot like the Beatles. Then again I don’t think Dr. Dog denies it either.
Their latest album, Fate, kicks off simply, but one minute into “The Breeze” you can feel where the title comes into play. Light piano and harmonies worthy of the Beach Boys flow over each other like a light wind, creating a perfect summer song. Toby Leamen and Scott McMicken take turns at the songwriting helm, giving each song a slightly different dynamic while still retaining the common thread; punchy pop songs with a sixties twist. The two also trade off vocally, one vocal sounding a bit Conor Oberst and Daniel Johnston (“The Old Days”/“The Rabbit, the Bat and the Reindeer”) while the other is all blues and not surprisingly Lennon-esque down to the smoky growl (“Hang On”/“100 years”). There’s even a little Tom Waits thrown into the mix, musically and vocally on “The Beach.” And from lyrical standpoint I think Fate is stronger than 2007’s We All Belong. There is enough originality and strength to the songwriting where the heavy Beatles influence can be excused even if there’s a little “Hey Jude” present in “Form” (listen to the piano progression before the refrain).
In the end, with each listen I see myself leaning back, falling on the side of fence of acceptance and running through the fields, screaming, “Yes, yes I really like this band!” Maybe it’s the Bupropion, but I’m trying to remain positive. Better the Beatles than Michael Bolton.
by Justin Weingartner