Dr. Dog: Bad Band Name with Good Things Going for Them

The guys in Dr. Dog aren’t going to set any fashion trends. They aren’t particularly charismatic. They don’t have a sound that fits into a trendy cubbyhole. They don’t have a terribly interesting backstory. They have two main vocalists, both of whom have kind of weird voices. They aren’t favorites of the tastemakers at Pitchfork. And it must be said: their band name is pretty bad. What they do have is a talent for melody, a knack for guitar-bass-drums-keyboards arrangement, and an infectiously joyful way of playing onstage. Those are awfully good things to have going for you.

Toby Leaman and Scott McMicken have known each other and played music together since childhood. In 1999, they formed Dr. Dog as a home-recording side project from another band. Their early recordings sound like a weird mix of ’60s songcraft and ’90s lo-fi weirdness, something like Pavement crossed with Paul McCartney. They might have gone on in this vein for years, as a little-known Philadelphia band making messy but often brilliant music. Instead, a friend gave a copy of Dr. Dog’s 2002 Toothbrush to Jim James of My Morning Jacket and he invited the band on tour. Perhaps he recognized them as kindred spirits, musicians who seemed utterly unconcerned with fitting in anywhere. He helped bring them to a wider audience, and in the past few years they’ve recorded with respected producer Rob Schnapf and signed to the esteemed record label Anti–.

That said, this is still a pretty ragged-sounding band. This year’s self-produced Be the Void could easily have borne the same title as the band’s first release, Psychedelic Swamp. Leaman and McMicken sound like they love it that way.

DR. DOG: 4th&B, Saturday, October 6, 8:00 p.m. 619-231-4343. $22.50.

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