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Album Review: Dr. Dog, 'Be The Void'

Dr. Dog Be The Void cover

Dr. Dog has been putting out albums for a decade now, during which time they’ve shifted their style between lo-fi, psychedelic, harmonic, experimental, poppy, retro, and polished. The forthcoming Be The Void incorporates all of the above to take a comprehensive look at the band’s career. Dr. Dog’s sixth album doesn’t necessarily take as many risks as others, but it’s still one of the band’s most impressive, expertly crafted efforts.

The album starts off with a faint beat and a distorted count-off before launching headfirst into the chorus of “Lonesome”. The whole band chants, “What does it take to be lonesome? Nothing at all” alongside the twang of a slide-guitar and a slow, heavy drum beat. The track, like most of Dr. Dog’s music, sounds simultaneously polished and rough, poppy and melancholy.

Next is the lead single “That Old Black Hole”, a darker meditation on feeling stuck, guided by Scott McMicken’s vocals. Halfway through, the song changes shape with a creepy, circus-sounding interlude followed by a huge increase in tempo. That leads into the quick distorted guitar, bass, drum, and piano jam that kicks off “These Days”. Next Toby Leaman starts singing about letting go while each instrument slowly reenters. Between the emotional lyrics, the energetic bass, and the epic build, “These Days” harnesses the spirit of the best LCD Soundsystem tracks.

Leaman again takes vocals on “Get Away” and “Vampire”, a couple more powerful, melancholy tracks. Both start with him singing dramatically, then give way to intensifying instrumentals (soft and atmospheric in the former, heavy and distorted in the latter). He also does “Big Girl”, a fast and catchy but overly repetitive track and “Warrior Man”, which would be excellent if it didn’t borrow quite so heavily from the Kinks (Leaman even adopts a British accent for part of the track).

McMicken takes the vocal helm for “Do The Trick” and “Over Here, Over There”, both heavily recalling the band’s fourth LP, Fate. The former is a tragic love song that finds every rhyme for “trick” with some poppy, 60s-esque piano and harmonics. The latter again harnesses the 60s for some powerful throwback riffs. “Heavy Light” is another McMicken track, starting with a long percussive intro before he starts singing about “sleeping under carpet in a closet full of bones, in a body of boiling water”. Although the repetitive chorus gets a little grating, it’s one of the album’s highest points, especially lyrically, and there’s an awesome instrumental breakdown in its last third.

On “How Long Must I Wait” and “Turning The Century”, the two most instrumental-driven tracks, Leaman and McMicken split vocal duties. The former is a sparse and fairly forgettable track saved by some mouth-watering guitar riffs. The latter closes out the album with a combination of sitar, twangy guitar, and harmonies. As they sing of “standing at the door, turning the century”, some soft distortion comes in to finish off the song and album.

Be The Void is out February 7 via ANTI-.