From the very beginning, it’s apparent that Marshall Birch has, in fact, made this record with a group of Some Buddies. Dog Daddy Yeah by Marshall Birch & Some Buddies is a fun, pop-driven collection of folky-rock tunes that would make a fine soundtrack for a casual Sunday drive with your pals. Released in mid-December 2017, the band proudly displays their Winnipeg roots and influence from hometown heroes, The Weakerthans, though the songwriting manages to remain uptempo and cheeky in spite of their Manitoban winters.
Marshall himself plays a dozen different instruments on the LP and is backed by a very capable band. At his best, as on the opening track “Cloudland” and “Nice Houses,” he can be a captivating vocalist and amusingly-eclectic songwriter. At other times, though, his melodies feel a little awkward and contrived, striving for conviction but falling a little short. The record cleverly disguises dense arrangements within its apparently simple pop structures; something like Blonde on Blonde-era Dylan meets 80s Elvis Costello with a few almost-punk riffs thrown in. Lush background vocals fill out the instrumentation on much of the release, and they feel rather luxurious.
Dog Daddy Yeah does have its moments of uninspired space-wasting (“Face in a Rock”, for instance) and dangerously bland lyrical territory (“Check Out The River”), though the latter is rescued by Darryl Reilly’s unexpected sax solo. The sheer number of lesser-heard instruments that are featured on this record – including an accordion, melodica, cello and viola – make for an interesting soundscape, and Paige Drobot contributes some strong guitar work as well.
The album closes with a rather somber ode to “Little Alex” and brings Marshall’s characteristic vocal quirk to a song that feels, endearingly, like an Andrew Jackson Jihad ballad but without the homeless people. It’s a fitting dénouement and I like it.
Overall, Dog Daddy Yeah is a pretty cool record that also has its share of ‘meh’ moments – a bit of a single-trick-equine, this full-length from Marshall Birch & Some Buddies is nonetheless unique in its own right, and might just warm your ear cockles in this shittiest-of-Canadian-seasons.
Written by Mickey Ellsworth
*edited by Kate Erickson