After four straight kicks in the nuts from the notoriously fickle reviewers at Pitchfork.com, Dr. Dog's Scott McMicken has learned to roll with the punches.
"From our very first record and everything we've put out since, they've pretty much just ripped us a new one on all those reviews," the Philadelphia five-piece's drummer says.
And he's not kidding. If you only knew Dr. Dog from Pitchfork's descriptions, you might think they were merely a lame Beatles tribute band.
This spring, Pitchfork held true to form again, giving Dr. Dog's Shame, Shame a 6.7 out of 10 — granted, it's the site's highest scoring of the band yet — while at the same time delivering the outlandish critical barbs fans of the band have grown accustomed to reading between eye rolls. The following excerpt may be perhaps the longest-winded backhanded compliment in the history of music criticism:
"It's a pleasant surprise that after a gruelingly long run of dry, indistinguishable material, Dr. Dog have produced a record that shakes off (most of) their pallid Beatles-borrowing and embraces a bigger, more charismatic sound."
Sure, it may be easy to hear the heavy influence of the Fab Four in the band's sound — Toby Leaman's nimble, McCartney-esque bass playing; the group's ragged-but-right harmonies — but anyone who labels Dr. Dog "pallid" is missing the point. Namely, that the group is far more concerned with making audiences shake their asses and sing their hearts out than worrying about whether someone thinks they nicked the bass line from "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da."
Shame delivers more of the same joyous exuberance that fans have come to expect, with 11 roller-rink-ready pop tunes. Aided by producer Rob Schnapf (Beck's Mellow Gold), the band focuses their sound without sacrificing their lo-fi roots to major-label gloss, resulting in perhaps their tightest record yet.
"We definitely wanted a bigger-sounding record because we wanted it live," McMicken says. "And live, we try to be big."
"Big" is certainly one word for it. From the giant chorus of "Where'd All the Time Go?" to the propulsive bounce of "Later," Shame has more than enough hooks to land a legion of new fans. Pitchfork be damned.
"I don't spend a lot of time reading the reviews," admits McMicken. "I used to, and then I found that I was becoming kind of vulnerable. You get two kinds of reviews in this day and age.
"You get intense praise or you get completely destroyed, where the writer of the review actually feels offended that they had to sit down and listen to you."
The Houston International Festival announced last week that Dr. James Austin, president and chief executive officer of the festival's governing body, the Houston Festival Foundation, will retire after 24 years, effective February 1. Rick Mitchell, former Houston Chronicle music critic and currently iFest's Director of Performing Arts, has been appointed interim president and CEO while the board of directors searches for a replacement. Mitchell would not comment publicly on whether or not he is a candidate for the permanent job, but did say he would be ready to announce the festival's first 2011 performers soon: "We will serve no wine before its time." iFest is scheduled for the weekends of April 30-May 1 and May 7-8 in downtown Houston; next year's theme is "The Silk Road," spotlighting the cultures of Turkey, India and China.
Last week South by Southwest announced the first performers who have been accepted for SXSW 2011, the Austin festival's 25th year. Among the names are A Place to Bury Strangers, Designer Drugs, Erykah Badu, Iron Age, Klaxons, Parts & Labor and Wye Oak. The music portion of SXSW '11 runs March 16-20; see sxsw.com for more.
88 E. Crosstimbers, 713-694-6800
1. Pimp C, The Naked Soul of Sweet Jones
2. Devin the Dude, Gotta Be Me
3. Trae tha Truth, Can't Ban the Truth
4. Lyfe Jennings, I Still Believe
5. Walter Beasley, Backatcha
6. Rick Ross, Albert Anastasia 2: Carlo Gambino Re-Loaded
7. Trey Songz, Passion, Pain & Pleasure
8. Wayman Tisdale, Fonk Record
9. Jabo, Hard Times
10. Eightball & MJG, From the Bottom 2 the Top
1. Randy Travis, "Forever and Ever, Amen"
2. Jimmy Dean, "Big Bad John"
3. Conway Twitty, "Slow Hand"
4. Mickey Gilley, "Stand by Me"
5. Charley Pride, "Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'"
6. Alabama, "Tennessee River"
7. The Highwaymen, "Highwayman"
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8. Marty Robbins, "El Paso"
9. Lee Greenwood, "God Bless the U.S.A."
10. Elvis Presley, "Heartbreak Hotel"
(lists compiled by Chris Gray)