Before I get into something vinyl-related, I must start off with a few comments about this very magazine. During this column’s first run (1979-2009), or at least during most of it, my year-end theme was often based on taking a shit all over whatever MAGNET had either elected to be its best-of for the year or assorted cover stories and other positive-power pushes that appeared in its pages during the previous 12 months. You know, the whole “What the fuck were they thinking?!?” sort of thing. Usually it was fleshed out into declarations of violence, office vandalism (faux … duh) or threats of resignation (all faux … duh) from the writing staff in some unforgettable manner or another. In Street Team’s long history, this general angle was one of the more predictable. But like all journalistic/promotional/promojournalistic year-end/best-of follies, it was easy and allowed me to experience the laziness that defines the processes of most other music writers regardless of season. A little participatory tip-o-the-hat to my (late) man, George Plimpton, if you will.
Well, just the other day, my comp copy of MAGNET #129 arrived in the mail and necessitated a temporary derailing of Street Team’s running “Best Writing About Vinyl And Its History” phase (it’s a “phase” or “era” now, considering how many of them I’ve written to date) for a quasi-reunion with what was described in the opening paragraph. Accidents are the exclusive causal factor behind the only times I’ve ever heard the music made by Dr. Dog, and the occurrences date to at least seven to eight years back. I don’t remember what album or chapter in the band’s 15-year narrative provided what went into my ears, and I can only recall making an assessment that was some combination of “Flaming Lips lite,” “Irrelevant 6 is still happening?!?” and “This isn’t that bad … pretty catchy,” “You could do worse with the ‘Bonnaroovian-jam-band-gets-indie-rock-makeover’ or ‘Bonnaroovian indie-rock band gets jam-band makeover’ that’s happening everywhere right now” and “Oh no fucking way!!! The sound of any band that chooses to name itself Dr. Fucking Dog is not allowed within 100 yards of my property or person!!!!!”
Let’s say Dr. Dog’s music is equal or superior to a seamless, perfectly executed combination of Boris, Trumans Water, Jesu, the Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, Fly Ashtray, Silkworm, Torche, Bailter Space, the Wedding Present, 40 Watt Sun, the Swirlies, selections throughout the Converge discography, the Dead C, Shellac, Neu!, Palace/Bonnie Prince Billy/Will Oldham, Bill Drummond’s entire career, Coral, Three Mile Pilot, This Heat, Steel Pole Bath Tub, Deaf Wish, John Fahey, Cloud Rat, Guided By Voices, Melvins, the Grifters, Bob Lind, Gods & Queens, Moving Targets, Team Dresch, Kreator’s Terrible Certainty LP, A Minor Forest, Neurosis, Lindsey Buckingham’s and Bob Lind’s respective compositions for Fleetwood Mac, My Bloody Valentine, G.I.S.M., Pallbearer, the Frogs, Slayer, Further, Wildildlife, pg. 99, Electric Wizard, Minutemen, Bolt Thrower, Fugazi, Bongwater, Innumerable Forms, Weekend Nachos, Can, Dinosaur Jr, the Byrds, New Order, Cheater Slicks, Disfear, Charles Brown Superstar, Stereolab’s Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements LP, Scott Walker’s first four albums, Battles, Leatherface, Thin Lizzy, Cherubs, Honor Role, the Cure’s pre-1992 output, World Of Pooh, Graf Orlock, Black Sabbath, Hüsker Dü, Pig Destroyer’s Phantom Limb LP and Natasha EP, Eggs, Lorelei, the Wipers, His Hero Is Gone, Pyramids, Medicine, Jucifer, Ween, Vertical Slit/V-3, Unwound, Uncle Wiggly, Gun Outfit, Treepeople, Sun City Girls, Superconductor, The(e) Speaking Canaries, Sorry, Jessamine, Disma, Versoma, Scrawl, Rites Of Spring, Carcass, Polvo, Miles Davis’ 1971-1975 output, Band Of Susans’ 1991-1995 output, Destruction’s Infernal Overkill and Eternal Devastation LPs, the Groundhogs, the Fucking Champs’ III double-LP, My Dad Is Dead’s 1989-1997 run, Windhand, Major Stars, Joel R.L. Phelps (+Downer Trio) and Jay Reatard.
Now let’s say they have a sense of humor and way with words that bests Spalding Gray, Bobcat Goldthwait, Dick Cavett, Norman Mailer, Neil Hamburger, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Broad City, Gore Vidal and Brian Koppleman combined.
Lastly, what if Dr. Dog was all of that plus its music somehow exuded the collective heart, wit and genius of Fargo: Season 2, Better Call Saul, The Newsroom, Thomas Berger’s Sneaky People, plus everything ever written by Pete Dexter and Charles Willeford?
A more succinct way to present this hypothetical is to simply ask, “What if Dr. Dog was heavily influenced by the multi-format genre known as ‘great taste’ and managed to parlay it into the creation of its music in a discernible yet highly successful manner?”
If this was indeed the case, and I actually believed it to be true, then I’m afraid that the Best Artistic Statement Of All Time would have to be boycotted in this house because someone chose to name it Dr. Fucking Dog.
Band names/artistic monikers are so, so, so important, people. Anyone who subscribes to bullshittery such as “It’s only a name” or “It’s unfair to judge a band/artist on name alone” needs to call 911 so the EMTs can rush him or her to the ER for an emergency head-from-ass extraction. The quality level of a band name/moniker is a paramount reaction upon many other facets of whatever it is that you’re putting in front of the world. Of course, there are many express routes to utter failure re: band name/moniker choice, and “Dr. Dog” checks four boxes: 1) Traditionally Bad; 2) Aesthetically Repellent; 3) Accurately Implementative Of Bad Musical/Sonic Elements At Work; and 4) Poor Choice In Band Name = Poor Choices In Musical Presentation. Though it might not seem like it, this is one of the more harmless results of assessing a bad band name. At least there’s a perverse originality to it. Don’t get me started on the blink-and-miss-it idiocy, crash-and-burn “cleverness” and dire dearth of originality behind such monikers as “Joanna Gruesome,” “Sauna Youth” and “Zora Jones.” In closing, I should clarify that Dr. Dog’s music is available on the vinyl format.