Dr. Dog: Fate

Dr. Dog: Fate

Label: Park the Van

Release Date: July 22, 2008

On “Army of Ancients,” the vintage Band-esque 70’s horn-soaked ballad, Dr. Dog bassist and co-lead singer Toby Leaman screams “Oh, I’ve Got It” to anchor the soulful chorus. In this case, he might mean “Eureka!” With Fate, Dr. Dog “get it” in terms of ditching their old Lo-Fi aesthetic for the friendly confines of the studio, and come the closest that the band has so far to capturing what makes them such an endearing and enjoyable live band. Loving the studio, and tripling up on the harmonies, the horns, the guitars and the energy, Fate is easily the band’s best album. Maybe not necessarily the best set of songs, but definitely the best time you can have with a Dr. Dog LP at the crib.

To know Dr. Dog is to know the Beatles, and a bygone era of music. Far from 60’s worshipers like Robert Schneider of the Apples in Stereo, Dr. Dog are more like the flip side of a coin, coupled with tragic balladeer and Beatles successor Elliott Smith. But where Elliott Smith is the John/George side of the coin (the tails side), Dr. Dog is easily the Paul side. Check all the harmony oohs and aahs on, say, any song on Fate, but “My Friend” or “The Old Days,” or most notably “100 Years.” They’re Beatles, they’re E. Smith, they’re Beach Boys, they’re Dr. Dog and they’re awesome. The somber ballad, a la John, though, doesn’t exist in this world. Lots of bounce, lots of soul, lots of bass and lots of energy anchor the sounds Dr. Dog get on Fate. They don’t ape the 60’s/70’s sound, their band simply just sounds like that.

There’s a little three song arch early on, beginning with “The Old Days” and ending with “The Rabbit, the Bat, and the Reindeer” that affirm this new comfort and ease that Dr. Dog have with eschewing their Lo-Fi roots. While they once were a band that HAD to be seen live, this now isn’t necessarily the case. I heard “Wake Up” from Easy Beat, and wasn’t instantly drawn in. Live, though, the song takes a different energy, much of which is taken from the crowd and their energy. I “got it” once I was in that room, watching them play and hearing the crowd sing along; and could now hear the song in a different context once i’d had that experience. Fate suffers from no such dependence on checking them out live (though it certainly is never a bad idea to see Dr. Dog live if you have the chance.)

-John Whitaker

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