There comes a point in the life of a band when they are no longer an upstart band trying to find their sound or identity, Dr. Dog may have reached that point on 2012’s Be the Void. This realization must come with both its positive and negative aspects. On the one hand, they no longer have to toil to find how best to implement the talents of the band. On the other, you reach a point where you must test waters that before may have seemed much to treacherous. Dr. Dog has a very specific sound throughout it’s now seven album catalog. A sound, along with a raucous live show, that has gained them a significant following. The trick for a band reaching this stage is to avoid becoming stale. To avoid making songs that, although catchy and in some cases flat out good, just sound so similar to their older work that it makes listeners wonder why they aren't just listening to that. With Dr. Dog’s seventh studio album, B-Room¸ they encapsulate a band struggling with this idea. Overall the album comes across as a good representation of a band in transition between young, up and comers and seasoned vets trying to push the creative envelope.
The album begins with two songs, “the truth” and ”Broken Heart”, that sound like such classic Dr. Dog that I imagine they spill from the minds of front men Toby Leaman and Scott McMicken with little effort. Simple, yet incredibly catchy choruses along with the familiar harmonies that Dr. Dog fans have come to love. This led me off thinking that this would be a fairly cookie-cutter album. This theme continued on “Distant Light” which sounds almost identical to Be the Void’s less than thrilling “Big girl”.
As I've said, this is an album with transition traced all over it. No songs more encompass a band trying to blaze new trails for themselves than “Phenomenon”, “Long Way Down”, and “Twilight”. Dr. Dog’s early albums are pretty straight forward rock albums with your basic four instrument sets, but these songs all see the band delving into sounds they have never embraced. “Phenomenon” begins with an unprecedented banjo intro, something you would more expect to hear on the newest Avett Brothers’ album. “Long Way Down” is probably the most successful effort into a new sound that B-Room has to offer, featuring a steady horn section throughout. One can only imagine the energy this will take on in their live performance. “Twilight” sees the band take a stab at the all too popular indie rock trend of dreamy synth-pop. When you hear it it’s a little surprising that they haven’t tried this before, with the voice of Scott McMicken’s voice perfectly suited for the floating, trip like feeling for which they seem to be aiming. I imagine this may give us a glimpse into any kind of solo project that McMicken would pursue in the future.
Overall it’s an album that will satisfy Dr. Dog fans who just want to hear more classic Dr. Dog, but what excites me more is the indications we receive of what this band might eventually evolve into. It isn’t a perfect album by far, but they went for something out of their comfort zone, which in the current indie rock scene of repeat after repeat is refreshing.