Dennis Foxx Lives
Independent release, 2001
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/04/2002
On their website, New Jersey-based Dr. Roberts describe themselves as a band who are still very much in the development stage. That's what I like: truth in advertising.
Their debut EP, Dennis Foxx Lives, is the brainchild of guitarist/vocalists Nick Foss and Michael Casteel, and like their website says, these six songs do show off a band who is still very much trying to find where they belong in the crowded musical pool. Yet there is an air about this disc, much like Nirvana's debut Bleach, that suggests once the band gets their act together and tightens up as a musical unit, the results could be unstoppable. As they are now, they're marginal, at best.
Taking a sound that is part Nirvana, part Sonic Youth and part R.E.M., the band - Goss, Casteel, bassist John Talor and drummer Joe Lucidi - bang through these songs (supposedly just a sampling of the band's songwriting catalog) and encourage the listener to keep their eyes focued on what the group will become. At times,such as on "Simple Tools For The Process" and "Drop G Tuning," one has to wonder whether the attention is worth it.
Yet there are moments on Dennis Foxx Lives that suggest that things are indeed clicking for Dr. Roberts. "Worm" is a powerhouse that refuses to stop once the musical ball gets rolling, while "Repeat It" is the closest thing to a hit single this disc has on it. Both tracks are the highlights of this disc, and confirm to me that there is some substance behind my hope for this band.
Yet they have their work cut out for them; the too-loose structure of songs like "Drop G Tuning" and "Cello Girl" offer a picture of a band that has not completely developed yet. When it comes to the hard-earned money of the consumer, they might not be willing to make an investment in a disc which shows a band in their own growing pains. Yes, every band needs to go through this stage... but one tends to think that the studio is the end result, not part of the process.
In one way, I hesitate to suggest that Dennis Foxx Lives should have been longer. On one hand, I'd have liked more than six songs to base my initial judgment on. On the other hand, understanding that Dr. Roberts is still growing into their own skin, would more songs have helped the situation... or possibly hurt it?
I'll be intrigued to see how Dr. Roberts matures as a band, especially on the strength of songs like "Repeat It". But Dennis Foxx Lives doesn't offer enough of those insightful moments.