Dr. Dog, “Critical Equation”

Dr. Dog
Critical Equation

There is always the temptation to call the Philadelphia-based, now-twenty-year-old rough psych act Dr. Dog “shaggy” in any description of the band’s mix of rolling hayseed rock and elegant, sophisticated harmonies. For the most part, save for 2016’s rejiggering of their experimental cassette tape debut The Psychedelic Swamp, that descriptor has been too true: The Beatles meet The Band in a bog.

But for Critical Equation, Dr. Dog has turned the tables on their sound with a livelier, rawer, and less direct display of their talents. Critical Equation also marks the first time that the good Dr. has utilized the aid of an outside producer—Gus Seyffert, in this case.

The ultra-contagious “Heart Killer” and the finessed “Go Out Fighting” are psilocybin-laced and charming. The live sound of the album, when combined with its subtler-than-usual hooks, is a nifty combination. Here, Dr. Dog allow themselves to be ruminative, as on the slow-building set opener “Listening In,” as well as to concentrate on complexity—that gorgeous multiverse title cut, for instance—without losing their usual sense of contagion and mussed-up romanticism.

Seyffert and The Dog have found a new spring in their step—an airier, lighter vibe that allows their country-infused wiles (say, on “True Love”) a chance to breathe freely, rather than punch through the usual dense wall of sound. Perhaps sloshing around their oddball roots in the aforementioned Swamp (itself a soundtrack to a Philadelphia avant-garde theater showcase) gave Dr. Dog an opportunity to reconfigure their priorities and lighten their psychedelic load. Good call.


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