Occasionally I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job parenting. I mean, my kids have all turned out to be polite, kind, and thoughtful young adults so I know I didn’t completely screw them up. But as a parent you’re in a constant state of self-judgement and self-diagnosis, wondering if that one time when you had too much to drink and were spinning Led Zeppelin II way too loud late one Friday night, that maybe that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. That was the beginning of a lifetime of therapy for your kids. So when positive affirmations rear their heads you have to just sit back and enjoy them. Like this:
If there’s one thing I’ve instilled in my kids is a solid and varied taste in music. From the time they were in the crib they had music in their lives. From the Jason Falkner CD Bedtime With The Beatles to listening to Wilco, Spoon, Flaming Lips, and of course the actual Beatles both at home and in the car, music has been a constant in both my life and the life of my kids.
Before they existed, my wife and I were hitting concerts all the time. That’s what we spent our time doing. Even after they were born, when we could get a babysitter we were hitting shows. One show in-particular was Wilco down at Slugger Field in Louisville, KY back in September of 2007. The opening band was a band from Philly called Dr. Dog.
I didn’t get a chance to look them up before the show, so when they hit the stage was my first listen. They opened the show with a four-part harmony version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and from there I was hooked. They played these scrappy, garage-rock songs that felt like they were part Kinks, part Beach Boys, Philly soul, with just a pinch of Guided By Voices for good measure. I locked their set into memory and made it my mission to buy their albums. About a month after that show I bought their album We All Belong and I became a Dr. Dog fan immediately.
The thing with Dr. Dog is that they seemed to lock into something in my brain that seemed almost older than me. Some existence I experienced before I ever wailed my first wail and took my first step. They were this young-ish band from Philadelphia that seemed to have appeared from some wormhole straight out of 1968. They locked into psychedelia, power pop, and garage rock trips and added their own tin pan alley flavor. Songs like “My Old Ways”, “Ain’t It Strange”, “Worst Trip”, “Keep A Friend” and “We All Belong” hit me on a molecular level. They felt like thoughts and dreams I’d had. Nostalgia, melancholy, dreams of long dead loved ones, and lost loves all intermingled when I played that record. These Dr. Dog guys were my kind of dudes, and I was along for the ride till the ride stopped.
My wife and I ended up seeing Dr. Dog a few more times live and I would buy anything they’d put out. It was all fantastic. But nearly 13 years into my Dr. Dog fandom and there’s one record that still remains firmly on top for me, and that’s Shame, Shame.
Shame, Shame is one of those albums I can put on and I can vividly see my kids dancing around the living room. The record spins as they lose their minds laughing and giggling to the four-part harmonies, jangly guitars, and Smile-esque glee. For me, I feel like this was the album that Dr. Dog found their footing and locked into what made them unique from their influences and inspirations. The beauty and soul of their hometown shone through on this record. It was also the debut with current drummer Eric Slick, who I first saw play with Adrian Belew as a third of his original Power Trio(along with sister Julie Slick) in February of 2009 in Fort Wayne, Indiana at Sweetwater Sound.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE everything that came before. Easy Beat, We All Belong, and Fate were masterful collections of rusty, DIY garage rock/pop. Easily some of my favorite music from the 2000s came from the songwriting team of Toby Leaman and Scott McMicken. And one of my absolute favorite live shows was seeing Dr. Dog in 2008 at the Hi-Fi in Indianapolis. I left that little club soaked in sweat, still buzzing from the electricity and joy of that night two hours later(no coffee stop needed that night.)
But for me Dr. Dog joined the ranks of the greats with Shame, Shame. There’s a sepia-toned majesty to this album. An aged quality that mingles with a modern wink. You can hear the distinct and tasteful eccentricities in Leaman and McMicken’s early influences, while hearing something quite unique and distinct to them as singular songwriters. From opener “Stranger” and it’s grand vocalizations to the catchy-as-hell single “Shadow People”, these Dr. Dog fellas want to bring you in with melody and hook. It’s where every great pop band needs to find themselves. Small Faces, Beach Boys, The Band, and early 90s indie rock aesthetic came together within this five man band and turned into something quite special.
Special enough that my 17-year old still feels it when she hears a song 10-years later.
Favorite songs? “Shadow People”, “Where’d All The Time Go?”, “I Only Wear Blue”, “Someday”, “Mirror, Mirror”, “Jackie Wants a Black Eye”, and of course title track “Shame, Shame”(with My Morning Jacket’s Jim James on backing vocals). I love this whole album from start to finish, though. Not a bad song here. I can feel the feels with every moment on this album. Like my 17-year old, I feel this immense wave of nostalgia when I drop the needle. It hits me in the chest and there’s a weight to this record. A heaviness of the heart that comes with only the biggest moments of one’s life, both good, bad, and otherwise. Dr. Dog make the soundtrack to life, folks. The sad, the happy, and the existential.
My feelings for Dr. Dog, and in-particular Shame, Shame are of a very personal nature. In all honesty, this album came out right before my brother-in-law took his own life in a lonely stretch of forest in west Texas. On my wife’s birthday, April 28th, 2010. We got a call at 11:30pm from my mother-in-law as we lay in bed after a day spent hitting thrift stores and record shops, and a night of homemade pizza and laughter.
The jangle and pop reverence of this record sunk in as we dealt with the loss of my wife’s older brother. But I don’t think of that sadness and heaviness when I hear this album. I think of my kids laughing and dancing in the living room as “Shadow People” and “Where’d All The Time Go” played. I think of my daughter, ten years on, texting me from work telling me how nostalgic she got hearing “Where’d All The Go?” playing in her air buds at work. That’s what I will think of when I listen to Shame, Shame.
“Where’d All The Time Go?” It just goes, man. It just goes.