Dr. Dog was poised to become the next great rock band with their last release. The media machine was in place but Fate, although selling relatively well, didn’t deliver the anticipated breakthrough to mainstream audiences. I don’t know if Shame, Shame will bring an abundance of new fans but it should.
Dr. Dog has gone through a series of changes over it’s decade long existence but it’s center has held; founding members Toby Leahman and Scott McMicken surround themselves with adept players and reached out to producer Rob Schnapf for guidance. Schnapf, who has worked with Beck, Richard Thompson, and Elliot Smith, reels in the loose ends and keeps the band focused as he moves them out of their regular environs. Situated in west Philly, Dr. Dog recorded Shame, Shame in Woodstook, New York. The resulting songs are the strongest the band has produced; a running theme of alienation and isolation is buoyed by cheery melodies, bright highlights and lots of harmony. However, songs like “Shadow People” remind us that you can take the boy out of Philadelphia but you can’t take that city out of the boy. The grittiness of those streets comes through loud and clear as McMicken describes the detail of his neighborhood. “Jackie Wants a Black Eye” is another song that bubbles up out of hardscrabble reality: we’re privy to a woman’s loss of dignity as she embraces her abuse.
Not all songs on the disc are this intense. There’s a sense of fun to the break-up song “I Only Wear Blue” with its rhythmic piano and bright percussion. “Stranger” a happy pop/rock single, opens the album. Although the band has made the leap to a new label – the indie Anti Records – there is no sign that this move has changed the bands attitude about production. Vocals are mostly shared between Leahman and McMicken, with Eliza Jones, Jackie Jugan, John Balzarin, and Yim Yames (My Morning Jacket) chiming in.