Album Review: Doctor Ew – "GADZOOKS"

Review by Mario Gautreau

Doctor Ew’s debut album, GADZOOKS, is a pleasant and personal dip into an indie pop dance club with romantic candles. When I started listening to the album for the first time, the opening track -- the beat-heavy “The House of Many Mansions" – launched my ears into a frenetic face that made me question a bit what I was getting into. Yes, I choose to end sentences with prepositions. The man behind the name, Drew Smith, is perhaps better known with his time in The Bicycles. The album shows the range of styles and influences that seem to inspire Smith, at times dabbling in ballads, melodramatic pop songs, even a bit of gospel and country.

All through the album, my ears tell me the sound is reminiscent of a scaled-down version of Of Montreal’s Satanic Panic in the Attic, with quirky multi-instrumentation and vocal harmonies littered through the tracks, but delivered in a hushed, lo-fi type of way. The fifth track, “I’m Not Mad at You Anymore,” is a toe-tapping ditty that freshens things up after a few softer tracks seem to have given the listener time to catch his breath and twiddle his thumbs a little. “Do As The Lord Tells Me” is by far my least favourite track on the album – which I do enjoy quite a bit on the whole. I’m not a fan of religious subject matter to begin with, but I think the combination of the melody, the voice, the little guitar licks, the piano-driven rhythm….all of it is a bit irritating to me. Oppositely, Dr. Ew’s lullaby-esque re-imagination and reintegration of “If you’re happy and you know it” is a playful number, sure to evoke a few laden memories of childhood. “Miles Away” is another fanciful ballad, delicate in its delivery and direct in its message, while “Bitter Fruit” was one of the highlights for me. If it’d been my choice, this would have been the opening track. The album rounds out with a song reminiscent of Kings of Convenience, complete with subtle but effective instances of violin and piano.

With 14 tracks clocking in at less than 30 minutes, there’s no fluff, long jams or redundant instances of silly choruses. While the album’s mostly pleasant, and often amusing (queue “I’m Getting Fat”), there’s nothing much that sticks with me when I finish listening to it. It’s a good listen, but not something I’d replay right afterwards to get my fix. That’s not to bash on the compositions or the recording quality – both of which of worthy of mention and a few good reviews. There are also a slew of respectable musicians that had a hand in making the album, including staff from The Meligrove Band and Zeus. But I would have expected an album title like “GADZOOKS” would have provided something a bit more frantic, filled with syncopation, wackiness and insanity, but it looks like it’s clever marketing by the doctor, much like pharmaceutical drug names.


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