- Dr. Dog get ready for their meeting with Nurse Cat
Let’s get this out of the way. Dr. Dog is an awful name for a band — somewhere between Hoobastank and the Goo Goo Dolls on the Awful Band Name list. But the group itself — five guys from Philadelphia who’ve been playing together since 1999 — is one of the most adventurous of the past decade.
Over the course of five albums, starting with 2002’s Toothbrush, they’ve mined a sort of ’60s-influenced indie-rock that started out low-fi but has since grown into full, kaleidoscopic Brian Wilson-style productions. Their latest album, Shame, Shame (which was released earlier this year), is their biggest and most consistent — a collection of baroque pop songs that sounds like it dropped in from a 40-year-old acid party.
Until recently, Dr. Dog have been mostly an insular band. Singer-bassist Toby Leaman and singer-guitarist Scott McMicken rounded up the group, wrote the songs, and recorded the albums in their home studio. But they wanted to try something different on Shame, Shame. So they hired Rob Schnapf (who’s worked with Beck and Elliott Smith) to produce, and they went to New York to record.
They’re happy with the way Shame, Shame turned out. But Leaman says they probably won’t be making an album like this again any time soon. “We thought we’d go away and make this record and it would be awesome,” he says. “But that’s never the way we worked, and it turned out none of us really liked working like that.”
Schnapf certainly adds new textures to songs like “Shadow People” and the title track. And the layers of sounds running through the album are more disciplined this time out. The setup is one Dr. Dog are used to, since they usually head into the studio with every voice and instrument mapped out. But there were problems with this new structure, starting with Schnapf’s perfectionism. “We thought it would be easier than it was,” says Leaman. “We tried the best we could, going in head first.”