Review: Dr. Dog – Easybeat

Dr. Dog – Easy Street (National Parking)

I love to check out bands on Myspace. That’s how I find music these days. It’s a perfectly egalitarian system. You get a few pictures & four songs, whether you’re Sting or The Hangnails. During one of my semi-inebriated late-night trowels I stumbled onto Dr. Dog. What I heard really intrigued me, so I bought their cd, Easybeat. While waiting for it to arrive I read some reviews that mentioned their overt Beatle-ness. A few really slagged them for it, like saying, ‘We’re so over this, dude’. Well it arrived today and I’m on listen number six. I suppose it can be called Beatle-esque in that it has harmony, melody, & unexpected juxtapositions of musical elements (i.e. string quartets giving way to garage-band breaks, sing-alongs that pop out of nowhere, feedback over augmented chords). There is nothing here that is ripped from the fabs, save for one tossed-off Obladi-ish bass line on the opening number. Mostly what is Beatle-esque is an obvious striving to make something that’s going to stick around. Not to say it’s pretentious or precious in any way, it’s just that it’s obvious these guys are shooting for something. There is intent here that goes beyond writing a good or even catchy song. And like the Beatles, it walks the line between melancholia and jubilation, often in the same song. Mostly, it sounds like a band in a room dicking around and having a lot of fun. Sonically, It has the weird lo-fi weirdness of the Basement Tapes. No high end at all, which is kinda neat. Gives the ears an unexpected rest. It was recorded on a 1/4″ 8-track, probably the same Fostex I have in my closet. It’s a magical little machine that may have contributed to the discs hazy mood. There are correlations between Easybeat & the two Simon Dawes EP’s, which have a similar fly-by-the-seat sound of the Kinks recording in a tool shed. Like the Dawes records, vocals distort, people go off microphone, and ragged harmonies are left in with the spot-on ones. Such a simple act, and one that could be interpreted as a careless one, but the bravery of leaving the grit in results in a sound that’s soothingly human, a sound you can snuggle up to. Couple that with the great songs these guys write, and you got something that’s essential. I hope no one gives them a budget for the next record, either.