Thursday, October 22, 2009

Album Of The Week: Dr. Dog- Fate

Damn you, Dr. Dog. I was all set to get home from work today and write a review of something cool, obscure, and/or original, like Miles Davis's sorta-hard-to-find Pangaea or the funk/dub instrumental album that the Beastie Boys released a year or two ago. But then I decided to give another listen to Fate and I couldn't deny my feelings any longer: I really, really like this album. Just as we sometimes develop a crush on someone who might not be such a good idea yet there's no way to talk ourselves out of it, I love Fate despite having some reservations about it.

The same day I borrowed Fate from my local library, I also got Sweetheart Of The Rodeo by The Byrds. As you may or may not know, there's a pretty good track on that album called 'One Hundred Years From Now.' On Fate, there's a song called '100 Years'; it actually took me awhile to realize this wasn't a cover of that Byrds track, even though lyrically they're different. Why would I make such an error?? Well, I'm not terribly familiar with Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, but more importantly, Dr. Dog sound very 60s. Critics often use "Beatles-esque" as shorthand for catchy, interesting pop/rock music, but in the case of Dr. Dog, it's more like a caveat. For instance, the piano and bass sound is often literally ripped right out of a post-Rubber Soul Beatles album. Moreover, both of the singers even sound enough like Lennon and McCartney that you have to wonder if they're doing it on purpose. I mean, christ, their last names are even Leaman and McMicken--not exactly the same last names, but close enough. There's also a strong touch of The Kinks at play on this album. Admittedly, the only Kinks album I own is The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society, but the addictive "choo-choo train" vocal hook on 'From' reminds me a lot of that album.

The sad thing is, even though I think Dr. Dog are so closely influenced by The Beatles and other 60s pop bands they could be brought up on criminal charges, I still love their music. I willfully resisted Fate at first because all I could think was "man, how do they get away with this?!" But once I got past that aspect and started actually hearing what I was listening to, I realized what great music was on display. 'Army Of Ancients' has a startling, ragged throated "oh yeah!" chorus set on a backdrop of soul horns. The aforementioned 'From' may start off as one of the most bald-faced Beatles borrowings (thefts??) on the album, but that damn "choo choo train" hook and melody hasn't left my head since I first heard it. And 'Uncovering The Old' hits you with some subtle orchestral flourishes as well as an excellent chorus that's wordy but still quite addictive.

Maybe my reservations about Fate have more to do with me than they do the actual product. I generally prize originality over consistency; I'd rather hear someone attempt something new than do a great job in a well trodden aesthetic. However, Dr. Dog may be starting to change my mind. Every critical and cynical circuit in my wiring is telling me to rip this album apart and declare Dr. Dog a pack of thieves, but Fate is just too damn good, too addictive and enjoyable. Assuming you can get past the glaring influences and borrowed sounds, or you just don't care, than this is a fantastic 60s style pop/rock album.

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