Dr. Dog’s ‘The Psychedelic Swamp’ entertains but fails to find identity
February 18, 2016
I will admit, when it comes to Dr. Dog, I am not well versed. I have a lot of friends who are really into them and I personally really enjoy the song “Shadow People” from their 2010 record Shame Shame. Other than that however, you could call me a Dr. Dog newbie. Although their recipe of psychedelic rock and indie folk is exactly what I have come to love as a music fan, their records have seemed to escape me until now.
Released last week, Dr. Dog’s, The Psychedelic Swamp, is an interesting collection of psychedelic tunes that shows the strengths of the band but also struggles to find its own identify in a landscape already filled with modern psychedelic masterpieces and, well, modern psychedelic disasters.
The record kicks off with, “Golden Hinds,” a groovy blues number that uses elements of David Bowie, The Black Keys, and even a slight musical reference to the sound of early 1970’s Rolling Stones records. Although not the strongest track on the album, the song features a really strong shift from verse to chorus and introduces a lot of the sounds that continue to appear on the record. The next track on the record, “Dead Record Player,” is easily one of my favorite songs on the record and I have gone back to listen to it a few times since my first listen. The song strongly presents the classic blend of Dr. Dog singers Toby Leaman and Scott McMicken.
One of the highlights of the record is the showcasing of the blend between the two juxtaposing voices. Another one of my favorite tracks on the album is “Swampedelic Pop.” The drum sound is reminiscent of the mid 1960’s and is clever enough to keep the listener interested.
The strongest and most pop-orientated song is “Bring My Baby Back.” The song was also released as the record’s first single. The slow shuffle of the drum machines simmers below the catchy vocals that are convincing of the story being told. This song alone may become one of my favorite tracks of 2016. “Fire On My Back” reminds me a lot of what I would have hoped the Chicago based band The Redwalls would have sounded like if they had continued into 2016.
At the end of the record is the track, “Swamp Is On,” which is a quite piece and psychedelic lullaby of sorts. The vocals hover over the moogs and the sparse drums. The song starts but never really goes anywhere.
On the surface, the album is a quality collection of psychedelic rock and roll songs that have fun and create an interesting listening experience for the listener. The songs have hooks and moogs and funky beats which is everything that a psychedelic record needs. However, the song fails to bring a good enough reason to why the listener should bother with this record instead of other very similar and better records by Cage The Elephant, Tame Impala, The Black Keys, and The Arcs. To put into other words, Dr. Dog’s, The Psychedelic Swamp, is like a tinder date. It’s fun and you can tell your friends about it but it’s not the quality you might expect on EHarmony where you might actually find something real and lasting. So if you’re looking for something to tell your grandchildren about, you better look elsewhere.
Matthew Clark is a junior journalism student. Besides being the music director at WRFW and the circulation manager at the Student Voice, Clark has become an accomplished musician, performing with the likes of Chicago and Daughtry. He has also contributed to a few movie soundtracks.