After 2010’s meticulous, majestic Shame, Shame, no one was asking Dr. Dog to go back to the scrappy lo-fi rock of the band’s younger days. The group’s new symphonic bent was worth further exploration, and the relaxed swagger of 2005’s Easy Beat isn’t the type of thing that’s easily manufactured. But, for whatever reason, Toby Leaman and Scott McMicken felt it was time to return Dr. Dog to its roots, and Be The Void is a spot-on sonic homecoming. The record’s classic-rock, live-concert sound is largely indiscernible from Dr. Dog’s early self-recordings, which is to say that 11 years in the business hasn’t sapped any of the Philadelphia group’s enthusiasm.
With its raucous shouts and handclaps, Be The Void has a loose energy that’s suggestive of a basement gig at a college house party—these are songs built for crowd participation, and every track has something to bounce around and chant aloud to. A throwback to ’70s guitar-rock, “These Days” has a rapid hook driven by a thumping bassline and striking piano chords, while “Get Away” is the album’s most expansive track, with soaring harmonies rising from an impassionedly howled refrain.
New addition Dimitri Manos, a multi-instrumental talent, grinds together electronics and percussion into a dirty snarl of noise and distortion; it’s the slight touch of chaos that makes songs like “Vampire” such an amped-up thrill. That Dr. Dog has written some supremely catchy tunes isn’t too surprising, but few would expect its (or any band’s) fifth record to be every bit as exciting as its first.