Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: Dr. Dog, We All Belong

Before you review a CD you have to listen to it.  Now, that’s so blindingly obvious that it’s usually not worth mentioning but it’s the source of the problems I’m having with “We All dr dogBelong”.  Every time I try to listen to it, and I’ve tried many times, I usually end up thinking, “Ugh, I don’t want to listen to this right now” and putting something else on.  Forcing myself to listen to the CD all the way through several times I think the problem isn’t the album, it’s me.  I’m not the right guy to be reviewing this CD.

Dr Dog is an indie rock/pop quintet out of Philly that is supplemented by lots of friends on “We All Belong”.  They feature a kind of ramshackle amalgam of’60s influenced styles combined with proudly lo-fi recording techniques.  Critics and musicians like Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy love them so I’m trying to figure out why they do nothing for me.  The first thing that comes to mind is rhythm.  My pathway into music is usually rhythm oriented and much of the rhythm on “We All Belong” is hamfisted at best.  Another problem I’m having is vocals.  Many of the tracks have nicely written and performed background vocals that often mimic the Beatles or Beach Boys to an excessive degree but they are well done and enjoyable.  The problem is that some of the guys who take lead vocals really can’t sing very well.  You can view this as “just-regular-guys” lo-fie indie charm or as a wince inducing exercise in self absorption by people who can’t or won’t realistically evaluate their strengths and weaknesses and work hard to overcome the latter before forcing them on other people.  Your choice.  Finally, the whole rough hewn, we’re just a bunch of guys making music thing comes across to me as more than a little too self-conscious at times, like they’re trying too hard to sound like something they’re not.  There’s a good chance I’m completely mistaken about this but too often Dr Dog strikes me as self-consciously precious.

On decent sound equipment the lo-fi limitations of “We All Belong” are obvious and an obstacle to enjoying the music.  On lower quality gear it sounds fine which means that it’ll sound okay ripped to MP3 or MP4.  I expect there will be more and more of this as the record industry puts out popular music engineered to sound good on iPods even though they are capable of so much more.

I often go out of my way to listen to music that is outside my habitual comfort zone because it’s the only way I know to discover new and exciting music.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  It didn’t work this time.  It may be that some time in the future I’ll listen to “We All Belong” and will be in the right place to hear why people like it.  It’s happened before and it’s why I periodically pull dumpers out of the CD collection and give them a relisten to see if they make more sense to me now.  But now is now and now “We All Belong” is going straight to tier two storage with the other “wish I had that $15 back” CDs.


09/09/2007 - Posted by | CD reviews, music, music reviews

1 Comment »

  1. […] (Deteriorating) Sound of Music In a recent review of Dr Dog’s We All Belong I […]

    Pingback by The (Deteriorating) Sound of Music « Tuned In To Music | 09/19/2007 | Reply

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