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Doctor Doom Orchestra | Thieves and Robots

album review by John Powell

Doctor Doom Orchestra | Thieves and Robots

Doctor Doom Orchestra has a way about them, something almost revolutionary. From moment one, the sense of a collective effort is apparent. No one is the front man, although Pete Doom may be the face of DDO. Between his rapping, Andrea Tavares’ full and powerful lungs, and Patrick Hurley’s gruff rock voice, the combo is something unique. Along those same lines, the band, which I’d still classify as “reggae”, pulls out metal riffs, funk horns, rock anthems, and hip hop breakdowns. There’s no real classification for this bunch, which makes Thieves and Robots a blessing and a curse.

The reason is that Thieves and Robots leaps around like an ADD-crazed contemporary electric conduction. For some, it feels like a roller coaster with one too many loop-de-loops. Others will be impressed by DDO’s versatility. There’s no way to know until you hear Patrick’s punk, overdriven riffing over Luke Batten’s simple and rich drumming, and of course Andrew Simpson’s surreally affective bass. Andrew is the catalyst for the instrumentation’s wide scope.

“So I/ play to win,” Pete starts things off on the opener. “Your radio’s been infected by Doom.” The music borders on ska, Jess Markey and David Pratt taking their horn duties seriously. Throughout the album they tie down the tones and keep things shiny, here in the intro adding sauce to the meat of the music.

Another ska-powered track is “Tomorrow”, on which Pete goes double time before the chorus hooks. “I’ll be up until the night’s all gone,” Andrea chimes in. She gets a sweet bridge, taking on a semi-neo-vaudeville flare.

On “Higher Ground” Pete comes in with a talking intro: “Free your ass/and your mind will follow.” It’s light-hearted. Then he hits it with slick rhymes about hittin’ switches. Palm-muted guitar holds things in until Pete takes a breath. It’s one of DDO’s better songs because it’s restrained when the band tends to go balls out.

A key track is “Sweet Life”. It’s highest of energies, showcasing Patrick, who deserves more microphone time. Pete kills it: “If you’re struggling/ find a way to just breathe/get up off of your knees/ God love ugly/ negativity/ disease.” The music is mega-tight, although the content just kind of skims the surface.

“Starin’ Through My Review” is one of DDO’s most mature songs. Musically, it sounds like Sublime. Pete gets angry, and when Pete gets angry he reaches new heights. Very positive, his rhymes are smooth, but rarely slice. Here, he takes on a new tone and it’s powerful. I’d love to have Pete cut loose like this more often. The content is defined, too. “Starin’ Through My Review” is their most accessible song yet.

The biggest criticism is not with the musicianship. All vocalists own their talents. Pete has fantastic flow, Andrea’s voice melts hearts, and Patrick is all business. The others fall in sync with one another, dashing genres into a tasty pot. The issue is with the song craft. Each song is formulaic. Pete comes in with his quips. Andrea does the hook. Patrick does a bridge. Andrea does a bridge. And all the while it all feels disjointed, as if they sat down with lines they had written and pushed them together into a song. Cohesion is lacking. Focus is lacking. The intentions are totally honest, as is the message, but it’s not until “Starin’ Through My Rearview” when Pete talks about gun shots ringing out in the streets that he gets specific enough to hit home.

DDO reminds me of a more upbeat Linkin Park, blending genres but never getting to the point. They should take a page from a similarly minded Ozomatli, also with multiple vocalists and genres. Instead of packing it all into one song, give Patrick a full tune, and Andrea, and then get real hip hop and let Pete shine. One song can be reggae and another metal, with no need to blend them into one. They are almost too much of a collective, and deserve more spotlights. Let the album weave as opposed to heap it on.

It’s great party music, but with their second album they’ve proven they have the talent. I want them to go into the woods, write, and edit. If they pulled from experience and created stories, as opposed to “Be careful with the path I choose/ as I face this life alone/ keep moving forward.” Honestly, Patrick, you’re not alone. DDO is a family of awesomeness. They just need to hone in their legacy.

Bottom line: Sophomore set from the northeast’s most eclectic band. It's beautiful chaos.


 

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