Considering how friendly Dr. Dog’s music is, it’s hard to believe the band has proved so divisive. Hating on the Philadelphia quintet is like beating up the neighborhood kids who spend all summer riding bikes and building forts—you may feel older and wiser, but who’s having a better time than them? The band’s sun-drenched, feel-good vibe belies songs as full of personal conviction as those of any acoustic-strumming bleeding heart. If anything, Dr. Dog’s edge is that they don’t have one—this is unabashed, love-each-other pop from a band that once named an album We All Belong and filled it with music proving just that.
Shame, Shame is the band’s sixth LP and its first release on independent mainstay Anti- after leaving boutique label Park the Van, but there’s no sign here of bigger and better production. Compared to 2008’s glossy jewel Fate, this album actually seems like a step away from the band’s usual sheen and accessibility. These 11 tunes stretch out over 40 minutes like a yawn after a good nap, and they’re nearly as refreshing. Bassist Toby Leaman’s gruff, bluesy howl and guitarist Scott McMicken’s high, wide-eyed tenor have long split the band’s songs like fraternal twins—easy to distinguish, but distinctly of the same stock. On Shame, Shame, McMicken’s songs really shine, his McCartney-ish melodies overshadowing Leaman’s moodier offerings. The album’s best track, “Where’d All the Time Go?” finds McMicken cooing about a girl who “gets dressed up like a pillow, so she’s always in bed” to a mellotron undulating like high tide, a wave of backing harmony and a set of quick guitar licks, all playing like a Pet Sounds B-side. And there ain’t no shame in that.