By Lara Avery
A terrible song once said, “If life is a highway, then I want to ride it all night long.” I’m not sure how one would go about “riding a highway”–usually you ride on them-but the metaphor has held its own. If life is a highway, then “Fate,” the new album from Philadelphia-based Dr. Dog is a slow train a-comin’.Here is a band that, according to their website, is interested in “three-part harmonies, the out-of-doors, hoagies, vegetables and diminished chords.” Unlike the speedy ins and outs of whoever hipsters are rejecting for their popularity these days, their new album will get nice and rusty on your iTunes shelf, complete with musical creaks and silly old sentiments that have been carried on from a faraway era. Though their throwback harmonies and classic rhythms recall the 1960s, the band has polished their formerly blended, smoky sound by upping the production quality in each layer of their songs. The closing track, “My Friend,” presents first a twanging electric riff, backs it with acoustic guitar and electric piano, and reaches its peak with the release of a chorus and full orchestra. The result can be as rich and complicated as the perfect piece of chocolate cake. Simple melodies paired with dynamic timbre are the inverse pyramid techniques that mirror ’60s and ’70s pop rock genius, such as Phil Spectre’s wall of sound or the deliberate, catchy intelligence of George Martin and the Beatles. The album’s nostalgic attitude also comes across in the bittersweet wails and deep organ reminiscent of The Band, as well as smooth sailing vocal arrangements that could have come out of the Beach Boys’ closet. My favorite tune, called “From,” is one of those that eases the listener through the song as if sinking into a rocking chair at the end of the hard day. The lyrics are a little sad: “Oh, my love, don’t you leave me/ ‘Cause I don’t want to learn how to die,” but the cushion of echoes after every line will never let you down hard. The guitar solo in the middle balances the bubblegum chorus, and could be a comeback for such abandoned pursuits.Dr. Dog has worked hard in this album to combine and modernize some golden oldies. In fact, that is about all they have done. Because of the influence that 1960s popular music still provides us today, it isn’t an unwise route for a contemporary band to take. That bands like My Chemical Romance, The Pussy Cat Dolls, or perhaps Tim Cochran (“Life Is A Highway”) dominate the airwaves should tell us we have a problem. Cheers to those who are already beyond Step One.