’We All Belong’ offers classic, catchy rock appeal

For people that are still pissed at Yoko Ono, Dr. Dog may be a small conciliation. The hot new group out of Philadelphia doesn’t have the vocal firepower or sex appeal of The Beatles, but with its second album, We All Belong, Dr. Dog has legitimized itself as a classic-sounding group with just enough weirdness to keep it interesting. Following a sterling debut in 2006 with Easy Beat, the band stuck with its gritty, unpolished style and great lyrics to churn out an even better follow-up album. If you love rock, you’ll love Dr. Dog.

We All Belong starts out with a two absurdly catchy tracks with cool piano openings and an aged theme: “Old News” and “My Old Ways.” The latter is up-tempo and has some excellent guitar work. Dr. Dog features two different guitarists who keep things interesting, and sometimes use a slide guitar, which further spurs comparisons to the George Harrison-led Beatles. Things get a little weirder and slower with “Keep a Friend,” which has some great background harmonies and a coarse guitar sound that feels old-school in a good way.

My favorite track on the album is “The Girl.” A powerful drumbeat sets up guitars that lurch back and forth, and there’s a hint of cowbell, which you can always use more of. The song seems to stop and start, pulling you around in the same way the “girl” in the lyrics does. Then, after another gritty and catchy guitar solo, the song’s ending sounds like an anthem – echoing, perhaps, Pink Floyd’s “Brick in the Wall” – and features interesting and poetic lyrics: “He’s not out of his head, but he’s much better off than before/ He’s not ready of bed, but he’s sleeping it off on the floor.”

“Alaska,” Dr. Dog’s number one iTunes download, is next. Here, we see some of the band’s vocal potential, and the epic chorus with hum-along background harmony creates a rich, full sound. “Weekend” is a slow song that looks forward to the end of work and celebrates leisure, while “Ain’t it Strange” is a classic-sounding song that exemplifies the band’s retro style. Dr. Dog could be described as a more mainstream version of Ween, which is totally strange and tripped-out but also has classic influences.

The hits keep coming on this album with “Worst Trip” – a particularly good road-trip song with a chorus that shouts, “Is this the worst trip that you’ve ever been on?” “The Way the Lazy Do” and “Die Die Die” are definitely the weirdest songs on the album, but they’re still completely catchy, while the album’s title track is the CD’s celebratory finish; “We all belong” is the chorus, sung in a staggered round and drawn out in a triumphant finish.

This is the best rock CD I’ve heard since Death Cab For Cutie’s Plans from 2005, and Dr. Dog is a little bit more fun than Death Cab. The relentless catchiness will have you singing a different song every day – each song has a moment that somehow gets in your head and stays there. If I had a vote for the Spring Fling concert, Dr. Dog would get it.