FOR SCOTT McMICKEN, lead guitarist/singer of Dr. Dog, a new record means a new approach. For years now, songwriting has thrown him under the singular interrogation bulb of his consciousness, and McMicken has decided this about his chosen art: "Songwriting is the most tangible thing there is. I mean, there are these plain and simple and obvious truths about how I'm feeling or seeing things, or how I'm treating people, or how people are treating me, that are so close and so a part of my own fabric that they are easily overlooked. And now, I write songs as a chance to investigate that."
In fact, Shame, Shame is the first time in the extensive recorded history of Dr. Dog that they've used real proper nouns in their songs. Ostensibly, this doesn't seem like such a big deal; but it is, if you consider the already personal nature of the endeavor of songwriting. And instead of casting the characters in his life with imaginary actors and building a set for them, McMicken has chosen to keep reality intact.
For instance, in Shame, Shame's "Jackie Wants a Black Eye," McMicken recalls a day when he and two of his friends had a long conversation about the various issues plaguing them. He very well could have used fake names, especially to protect the song's namesake, wanting to "prove that she's been hit," but he refused to. According to McMicken, "In the past, I would make up a name, assuming that it didn't matter if it was real or not, just as long as there was a name inside the song. But those songs never stuck or meant anything or lasted." Herein is the pawing responsibility McMicken feels to be honest within the confines of his music, thus producing a raw and relatable slice of life for his listeners. The man who once made it all up is singing, "We're all in it together now."
And meanwhile, Shame, Shame, Dr. Dog's Anti- debut, hangs in the air, heavy with excitement and accomplishment. The album does well to polish their fully developed amalgam of classic and pop rock sensibilities, keeping intact their love of resounding choruses and driving bass lines, expertly laid out by Toby Leaman, bassist and the other half of the Dog's songwriting prowess. And most importantly, while this effort is slightly more produced, there is absolutely no compression of the band's soul.
Another change is the level of energy present on Shame, Shame, one that does not exist on previous recordings. You can hear it throughout the recording, but especially on "Where'd All the Time Go," a standout track built on the premise of human expendability. McMicken shouts "And when the tide rises/somebody sinks/and is gone in the blink of an eye," before sailing into a celebratory guitar solo. And though it is fleeting, you can catch the whooping shouts of a band member, candidly blissful about what's happening sonically. Shame, Shame has the exuberance of a job well done.
Of course, it's not that they need anyone's praise. The fruits of Dr. Dog's labor are harvested so long as they're playing songs and having fun. In a moment of reflection on this, McMicken explains, "It's just that idea that everything you need, everything you want to say, and everything you value is right in front of you." And that's the truth.