Shame, Shame, Dr. Dog’s first album on the Anti- Records label, is not the type of CD that you give a once over and then move on. Shame, Shame is not your typical one-night stand, entertaining in the moment, interesting enough to tolerate for thirty minutes or so, but still easily abandoned after your brief, albeit amusing, encounter. It is much more of a long-term commitment that demands a second, third, and even fourth listening to before you can really start to appreciate its complexity and quirky nuances. It’s what I would call an acquired taste.
Filled with what can only be described as an eclectic mix of tracks, Shame, Shame showcases the band’s unquestionable musical talent. Starting off with a tambourine in the distance that is shortly accompanied by an exclamation of percussion, “Stranger,” the album-opening track, seems almost like something you would expect to hear while walking into a circus tent. That is, until the sorrowful lyrics kick in, and the song takes an unexpected turn – something that is relatively customary throughout the album and particularly evident in “Shame, Shame,” their closing track. From fast-paced, upbeat tunes like, “Unbearable Why” and “Later,” to the more suppressed and melodic “Someday,” it is as if Dr. Dog runs the gamut of genres with this motley assortment.
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Although the music is difficult to categorize, there are several distinct features that give Shame, Shame its sense of continuity. The 60’s-inspired sound that flows through the album, permeating it, coupled with ever-present background vocals, and a generally optimistic melody juxtaposing woeful lyrics tie Shame, Shame together. Clearly reminiscent of The Beatles, Dr. Dog finds its niche somewhere in between the realm of Psychedelic Rock and Indie folk at an intersection where Modest Mouse meets Country meets The Band.
Built on a strong instrumental backing, Shame, Shame boasts elaborate, grandiose melodies. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the lyrics, adhering to the standard of most Indie Rock and proving to be generically melancholic tinted with romantic hues. While Dr. Dog pulls out a few unique phrases, the general message conveyed is a trite one of heartbreak and disillusionment. Increasingly regrettable is the fact that Scott McMicken, one of their two lead vocalists, has a high-pitched, raspy voice that is not particularly conducive to soothing, but that is just personal opinion.
While it is obvious that a lot of emotion and effort went into producing Shame, Shame, I personally would not go out and buy it. Simply put, the benefits do not outweigh the cost, literally and figuratively. It is not easy listening, and requires more work and attention than I care to put into it. Having said that, if you’re into Dr. Dog, or the like, and want an “investment piece,” then Shame, Shame is for you. Dr. Dog’s talent shines through in this methodically intricate album.
--Chloe Tanaka, Facts and Tracks, Wed 10-11am and Friday 2-3 pm on WGTB