Dr. Dog’s seventh LP combines all the psychedelic folky goodness and energy of their earlier work with glimpses of a more polished sound. Beginning with the track “Lonesome,” “Be the Void” is a foot-stomping, finger-snapping album the whole way through.
Their music has the intrinsic quality of sounding like it was written by an eccentric laborer, with most of their tunes expressing hints of a field song melody or an old, roughly syncopated ragtime jingle. Every single tune on “Be the Void” is cohesive, making the album something you can listen to the whole way through.
Dr. Dog is one of the most lyrically entertaining bands I have listened to, each of their songs containing some element of wordplay. “That Old Black Hole,” for example, is essentially line after line of twisted idiomatic expressions.
The line, “These are tears of joy cried the weeping willow,” is perhaps the epitome of the endlessly satisfying lyrical and poetic word tricks Dr. Dog employs. Paired with the catchy melodies and entrancing harmonies of the two lead singer’s voices, Dr. Dog has crafted uniquely timeless and original songs.
Take the fourth track of the album “How Long Must I Wait?” as an example. Punchy keyboards and guitars are layered with a partially muted stringed melody that carries the euphonious voices of lead singers Scott McMicken and Toby Leaman throughout the tune.
Dr. Dog is obviously borrowing from older sounds in some of their songs, but very little work of merit is without discernible influences. The ability to blend styles from apparent opposites of the musical spectrum is a quality of the band that is admirable, not necessarily something to look down on.
In “Warrior Man,” a stylistic outlier of the album, one can hear King Crimson and Iron Butterfly experimenting with psychedelics as subjects of a yellowing sci-fi novel. It’s songs like “Warrior Man” that make Dr. Dog’s music refreshing, especially knowing that it’s in the same arena as the jangling summation to the album “Turning the Century.”
“Be the Void” is incredibly accessible to everyone, as the lofty subject matter of most their songs often comes down and turns into something everyone can relate to in one way or another. The search for a significant other expressed in “Do the Trick” and the sought perseverance in “Over Here, Over There” echoes universal themes of the human spirit.
If you’ve never listened to Dr. Dog, think of The Beatles meeting Joe Walsh and then having a child who works on the railroad his entire life, acquiring a love of labor and poetic prose. Even then, Dr. Dog has a sound that you just have to hear for yourself.
Photos courtesy Anti- Records