For the last decade Sean Dunlop (who lives in the US) and Jamie Radford (who lives in the UK) have been using the Internet to combine their musical abilities. They have made ten albums and hundreds of songs and along the way have earned themselves a respectable fan base. Dunlop then performs the music live with a number of qualified musicians from the Detroit area.
The duo’s (aka These Curious Thoughts) latest release Inventing Dr. Sutherland and His Traveling Hospital contains fifteen songs that combine elements of pop and rock. I would say that rock-inspired moments are more reflective of bands from the late ‘60s and ‘70s. There is a quirkiness about the music in the same way as Ariel Pink and to a lesser extent Frank Zappa are.
Fifteen songs is practically a double album’s worth of material and it does take some patience to get through, They probably could have cut about five tracks, which I think may have made the album feel more impactful. That being said the songwriting is pretty good overall and a number of tracks are worth listening to more than once.
The first track “Dark Room” combines horns, drums, bass and guitar into a warm sounding canvas of rock. One thing I immediately noticed was the panning. The drums were panned hard right while the bass was panned hard left. If you know even the basics of mixing music you know this method is rarely implemented in this day and age. Drums and bass are usually center. This idea of panning hard left or right for the bass and drums was sometimes implemented by the most famous rock band of the last century - The Beatles.
“Diagnosis” is a highlight of the record and has some of the most memorable vocal melodies on the album. The vocal harmonies were especially effective and added to the ‘70s allure of the music. All right so a song called “Purple Godzilla” may come off as silly or just downright ridiculous but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. The song combines wah guitar and organ with a steam rolling rhythm section that provides the energy.
Not every song was a home run as the album progresses but there were a couple you won’t want to miss. “Backup Full Of Tears,” “Sirens” and “Sacrifice” were standouts.
Dr. Sutherland and His Traveling Hospital is a pretty original sounding album with some unique lyrics, production techniques and general ideas. Recommended.
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