Dr. Dog - B-Room

Dr. Dog - B-Room

There's something messy about Dr. Dog's music. Their songs are like a big, black, curly-haired dog--it's hard to tell where one part ends and another begins. To counter this shaggy, psych-rock effect, the Pennsylvania band have built a new studio, live tracked their recordings, and released their eighth studio album, B-Room. Despite the new renovations, the album remains an entertaining dog's breakfast of quality vs. strangeness.

Dr. Dog seem like the Coen brothers version of alternative country. Their songs are self-aware, pay recognition to genre classics, and contain plenty of confused protagonists and bedroom philosophers. At their best we get the pertinent question of everlasting love transposed over a swooning, melodic beat, such as 'Love'. At their worst, we get another trite, flannel-wearing country-rocker, like 'Distant Light'.

The predictability of their music often determines it's success. For example, singing a girl's name over a bouncing piano, such as in 'Nellie', always sounds good. Likewise, the slow, rising repetition of opener 'The Truth' follows the long path of ascension to emotional cloud busting as did 2010's Shame, Shame highlight, 'Shadow People'. 'Phenomenon' even perfectly balances a strong structure with a wiggly fiddle and cartwheeling production, throwing in a curveball lyric in a moment of clarity; 'You're always leaving, but you're never gone,' lead vocalist Scott McMicken sings.

It's the stray moments from B-Room that falter. From the opening notes of 'Too Weak To Ramble', it's obvious the song isn't going anywhere. The falsetto is enervating, and walks in circles. In the same fashion, songs like 'Twilight' and 'Cuckoo' end up chasing their own tail.

Is there a band in the genre goofier than Dr. Dog? Probably not. But if sounding similar to The Beatles is the worst criticism levelled against them, they're hardly alternative-country's Nickleback. As long as they continue to churn out the oddball moments of pop brilliance found on B-Room--or flash their proverbial puppy eyes--they'll attract new audiences, like bees to pollen, or dogs to a bone.

Listen to highlight 'Phenomenon' below:

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