Album Review

Brian Ahnmark
Philadelphia quintet Dr. Dog transforms from scrappy to downright irresistible on Shame, Shame, the band's sixth full-length album.

“There was this feeling inside me going into making this record that we'd never made an album before,” guitarist/vocalist Scott McMicken said as a way of explaining Dr. Dog's mindset heading into the sessions. All previous efforts had been homegrown do-it-yourself jobs, recorded in the band's home studio. For Shame, Shame, Dr. Dog enlisted the assistance of producer Rob Schnapf (Beck, The Whigs) and emerged from the comfortable confines of the basement to fine-tune new material in “real” studios.

The results are delicious, and nary a gloriously ragged edge was dulled in the process. Opener “Stranger” grooves on Toby Leaman's buoyant bass line and sunny harmonies layering an explosive chorus; “Shadow People” begins as a folksy ballad resplendent with lap steel guitar, before blossoming into a foot-stomping affirmation; standout track “Where'd All The Time Go?” disguises itself as a bright acoustic strum, then lifts off into a twisted, time-changing chorus and a smoking guitar solo finale by McMicken.

Every second of Shame, Shame is infused with unbridled joy. On multiple songs, Leaman and McMicken literally cannot contain their glee, whooping and hollering in the background during instrumental breaks. The pessimistic listener anticipating the clunker ballad just around the corner will be pleasantly disappointed; even the quiet moments develop into something triumphant. “I Only Wear Blue” opens with a lone voice, an organ and the lyric “I'm all bottled up/Floating in the deep blue.” But the mourning quickly gives way to ringing guitar and percussion, an inspired call-to-arms (“Let's get on with it! We haven't got too much time), and octave-leaping lead bass. Even “Jackie Wants a Black Eye,” an ode to the sometimes violent rigors of love, bounds with a gospel-like energy.

Further endorsement of this record comes courtesy of Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys), who shares a songwriting credit on “Shadow People,” and Jim James (My Morning Jacket), who contributes backing vocals to the title track. It's proof that greatness attracts like-minded greatness.