Fans of a particular band often find themselves wanting to delve into the copious demos and tapes that litter a studio floor before that beloved band finally picks and chooses what dozen or so songs may actually end up being recorded. Sometimes we get B-side discs like The Beatles? Let it Be that are simply marvelous, but Passed Away Vol. 1, Dr. Dog?s latest, is not one of these instances. It seems the band has opted to record songs that were, for the most part, better left on that studio floor. Although the psychedelic rock band?s 2007 release We All Belong was critically acclaimed and unexpectedly snatched the No. 39 spot on Rolling Stone?s Top 50 Albums of 2007, Passed Away won?t be the same underdog album, nor will it earn a place in the B-side Hall of Fame.
Passed Away is a rough collection of previously unreleased material Dr. Dog has recorded over the last five or six years. Although the band is quick to say this is not a formal studio album by any means, the fact that it was pressed and released brings into question what motives they had behind the release of this material.
After a quick listen, it becomes blatantly obvious that Dr. Dog isn?t going to attract many new fans with this effort, so capital gain shouldn?t be considered as possible rationale for this CD. But if the album was released to appease fans requesting these songs on their website, perhaps the band deserves more credit than Passed Away will fetch from commercial listeners. But, because there is no question that any avid Dr. Dog fan will be pleased with the compilation, this newest album simply fails to do the band justice when weighed against actual studio albums like We All Belong or 2005?s Easy Beats.
The foremost problem with Passed Away does not necessarily lie within the songs? content, however. The album is dotted with occasional flashes of Dr. Dog?s contemporary brilliance that have the potential to make any listener hit rewind. ?Eyesing the Blues? may be one of the greatest replications of Wilson-esque three-part harmonies since Pet Sounds itself. And even the short-instrumental track ?Beer Can? showcases the band?s rhythmic knack with its sublime melody, as Zach Miller explores his inner vibraphonist. The rest of the album, unfortunately, serves as ample proof that Dr. Dog didn?t turn out their exceptional brand of psychedelic ?60s pop in just a day.
But Passed Away cannot survive on just a few, flashy moments alone. Although some may think it is ?hip? ? or dare I say ?indie? ? to record with a four-track and a mic or two, the limitations of these rough basement recordings ultimately impede potential gold and leave the listener with nothing more than bronze at best. Dr. Dog may have given fans a peek into their musical vault, but they may have shown their treasures a bit prematurely. Advice to the band: Go back and put some production into Passed Away to really give it some life.
2.5 stars out of 5