Fishman Artists

Dr. Dog

Fishman Artist // Dr. Dog

After a one-album sojourn away from their band-built recording studio Philadelphia’s Dr. Dog returned home to Meth Beach to self-produce their latest collection of gloriously ramshackle rock ‘n’ roll reveries. Out February 7, Be The Void (Dr. Dog’s second release on Anti-Records) showcases the critically adored band’s renewed commitment to cultivating a stripped-down live sound. “This record comes from our pushing toward a rawer, more powerful, somewhat jittery competence,” explains guitarist-vocalist Scott McMicken. “We drew a lot of inspiration from soul music and the Rolling Stones and the Velvet Underground—music that’s got its roots in live expression rather than that studio-perfected sort of vibe.”

While Be The Void bears the same style of scrappy yet hook-packed rock served up by Dr. Dog for more than a decade, the six-member outfit (McMicken, bassist-vocalist Toby Leaman, rhythm guitarist Frank McElroy, keyboardist Zach Miller, drummer Eric Slick and multi-instrumentalist Dimitri Manos) seems newly emboldened by its deepened devotion to a bare-bones aesthetic. A marked departure from the soaring pop of 2010’s Shame, Shame, the album also finds Dr. Dog revitalized by the recent addition of Slick (who’s previously played with Ween, Adrian Belew, and Project Object) and Manos (also a member of Arizona-based alt-country band Golden Boots).

Recorded in the summer of 2011, Be The Void seizes that vibrant spirit and transforms it into a 12-track song selection that’s at turns deadly catchy and dance-worthy (the shuffling swagger of “Big Girl”), wistful and bittersweet (the lovely, languid sigh of “Get Away”), and earthy-earnest (the twangy troubadour folk of “Turning the Century”). Though each track feels richly textured and intricately layered, the band made a conscious effort to keep the recording process fast and loose. “We worked quicker and trusted our gut more than ever before, and at times it was scary and almost panic-inducing,” says McMicken. “All of a sudden you’d be aware of a feeling like, ‘This is really working, so don’t mess it up.’ And then the song ends and your heart’s pounding and you realize you haven’t taken a breath in three minutes. It was like riding a rollercoaster and wishing you could get right back on again.” As a result of that newfound abandon and surrender to intuition, “there’s so much on the record that I could never have imagined us being able to come up with,” McMicken adds.

Perhaps the album’s most epic moment, “Warrior Man” makes for one of Be The Void’s most thrilling surprises. Both sprawling and beautifully bombastic, the track attacks with lead-heavy beats, pseudo-futuristic sound effects, and psychedelic back-up harmonies. “‘Warrior Man’ was born out of a joke—it started as some silly phrase that Toby was singing, then turned into a jam, and ultimately became this monster of a tune that was recorded live,” says McMicken. “Everything about its origin reflects that freedom and confidence to own a weird idea and just let it live.”

Another deviation from Dr. Dog’s more summery and sleepy material, “Vampire” slaps a snarling guitar riff against ragged, howling vocals that perfectly capture the song’s pained refrain about love gone evil (“You’re a vampire, baby/No reflection at all”). “Heavy Light,” meanwhile, mutates from a percussion-driven dream-pop pastiche to shimmering piano ballad to freewheeling experiment in blissed-out psychedelia—all in just three minutes and 41 seconds.

Be The Void, the band's seventh album hit stores February 2012. Starting with the jangly roots-pop of “Lonesome,” the band careens with joyous abandon across a sprawling rock ‘n’ roll landscape. The delivery may be loose, but the songs are tightly crafted, filled with effortless hooks, warm vocal harmonies, and enough absurdist wordplay to leave Beck scratching his head. Distorted guitars, keyboards, and punchy bass lines intertwine on the urgent “Over Here, Over There” and “Vampire.” Lean guitar riffs drive “Big Girl” and “Warrior Man,” while the catchy “That Old Black Hole” and “Do the Trick” will have you singing along on first listen. The album closes much as it begins, by riding a relaxed acoustic groove on the loping “Turning the Century.” Be the Void is more melodic gold from one of the more reliable and consistent rock ‘n’ roll bands around.