It’s hard to believe that Dr. Dog have been around for so long. Shame, Shame is actually their sixth album. For a long while, their efforts simply got lost amidst the huge array of “just okay” indie-pop bands. Their previous release, however, 2008’s Fate, finally started breaking away from the indistinct indie trade fair, and now Shame, Shame successfully completes the rupture.
It seems McMicken (guitar, vocals), Toby Leaman (bass, vocals), Frank McElroy (guitar), Zach Miller (keyboards), and Eric Slick (drums) aimed to capture a more down-to-earth sound, with a far more spontaneous energy. The overall feel is much more personal, though the production is still noteworthy, considering they called in outside help for the first time. The band strive to stay true to their indie-pop/friendly-folk nature.
“Stranger” and “Shadow People” enthusiastically introduce the LP. It’s extremely easy to fall for the sociable melodies that already illustrate the record. Leaman and McMicken (respectively) each make the vocals their own and they earnestly communicate emotions with their particular style—a quality that has never eluded them. “Shadow People” also gives way to a very powerful climax after a coherent, though not tedious, buildup, a clear showcase of Dr. Dog’s fresh, new song-structuring approach.
The songwriting really couldn’t be more straightforward (“You know I need someone / I need something / I need to go back home”). The co-frontmen never try to shroud their thoughts, and at times it seems they’ve taken entire excerpts right out of simple conversations, with refreshing results. On certain tracks, like “Station” and “I Only Wear Blue”, this new lyricism interacts beautifully with the folk-infused and somewhat trippy arrangements.
Shame, Shame is also much more ambitious than previous works. “Unbearable Why” and “Where’d All The Time Go”, for example, bring forth much more creative use of vocals and harmonies. One thing they definitely nailed was the conception of relentlessly catchy melodies that center around chant-friendly choruses (“Later”, “Mirror, Mirror”, and “Jackie Wants a Black Eye” are all annoyingly hard forget): there is no doubt they’ll make for some awesome live shows.
Somewhere around the middle the album loses steam, mainly because tracks like “Someday”, although theoretically accomplished, seem all too familiar when put in the context of the record. Towards the end, however, we find some of the brightest movements of Shame, Shame. “Jackie Wants a Black Eye” slowly starts wrapping up the album with its heavy choruses: “We’re all in it together now / Because we all fall apart / We’re swapping little pieces of our broken little hearts”. Once again, Dr. Dog delivers accessible lyrics without falling prey to hackneyed clichés, making the listen particularly pleasant.
Shame, Shame is Dr. Dog’s most involved record to date, proudly reaping all those years of experience. The relatable lyrics, veteran instrumentation, and forthcoming composition prove that this record has more things worthy of being commended than condemned. On the other hand, one must admit that Dr. Dog still can’t rightfully claim a masterpiece, seeing how their most recent endeavor fails to liberate a totally new musical scheme.