dr dog — be the void

bristol rhythm & roots: dr. dog

Dr Dog — Be The Void. Out 2/7, Anti- Records.

I spent most of the weekend thinking about what I wanted to say about Dr. Dog’s fifth full length LP, Be The Void. I have listened to it a dozen times since getting a copy for review, and I understand that I love it unconditionally, but I am still not quite sure why. It’s bits and pieces — the rough vocals, the cleverly evasive lyrics, the sound of the fuzzy guitars, the track that has nothing but cowbell as its percussion for at least the opening minute and a half — but it is, more so even than Shame, Shame, it is the whole.

Be The Void is unavoidably an album, a record, and it delights me, this revival of the record and not the single. From “Lonesome” to “Turning the Century”, this record sounds better all at once — the songs shift and move together, in sound and in topic, what does it take to be lonesome and can you do the trick. Be The Void is an album about, well, that space under your ribcage when your heart gets broken. It’s the harmonized simplicity of “Lonesome” and the grooving, rhythm-section-dependent “That Old Black Hole” — subject matter-wise, Be The Void is a heartbreak record. All those kinds of heartbreak that you can have, and every song stomps or shivers or wails itself to the same idea, that you can be okay alone.

Be The Void, you know.

i don’t expect you to believe me but everything is alllllll right: musically, though, I never quite know what to say about Dr. Dog; it’s almost, sort of, kind of the 21st century of ’60s California surf pop, only with more effects pedals on the guitars and not quite as many handclaps, but not entirely, either. “These Days” is electropop, driving guitars that could just as well be synthesizers; there’s the quiet stuff like album closer “Turning the Century”, and the loud stuff like the strange, hard-driving “Warrior Man”. “Big Girl” is a broken-hearted song for the opposite gender. Nothing on this album sounds the same, but it all sounds just close enough to alike that it fuses. And there isn’t anything that tops first single “That Old Black Hole”, morbidly lyriced jangle pop full of hand claps and groove about the end of the world, about the way a broken heart feels like the end of the world.

That’s what this album is: it’s a jangle pop album made by five boys from Philadelphia who sound like they’re from Southern California and all have broken hearts and secret dark sides. I like secret dark sides; I like broken hearts.

I love this album.

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