This Diane Coffee ‘Everybody’s a Good Dog’ review was written by Ben Malkin
Perhaps best known for his work as the drummer for Californian psychedelic act Foxygen, Shaun Fleming – under the Diane Coffee moniker – follows up his 2013 debut release ‘My Friend Fish’ with a new batch of soul and classic rock inspired tunes. It has been made evident since the release of his previous album that he shares a lot of the same influences as the core Foxygen members, Sam France and Jonathan Rado. This adds a lot of intrigue as to just how much he can take from those influences, how different he can be, and how creative he can be.
‘Everybody’s a Good Dog’ opens with a sudden vocal choir backing Fleming’s gentle singing, fairly reminiscent of how Stevie Wonder’s ‘Songs in the Key of Life’ starts; an impactful and pleasant harmony setting the stage for what’s to come. This opening track is entitled ‘Spring Breathes,’ and there are even more easy-to-spot influences lodged in there; the song dives into another wordless harmony, this time a lot bouncier, and comparable to ‘Pet Sounds/Smile’era of The Beach Boys.
Things soon get space rock-esque, with fitting backing orchestration, and a curious disjointed bridge a little like the one from David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity.’ Fleming is obviously wearing a lot of his influences on his sleeve, and it’s up to the listener to decide whether that equals charming throwback music, or a lack of creativity or individuality.
Throughout the majority of the album, Fleming does the blue-eyed soul thing fairly competently, the kind of thing Foxygen themselves have done in places on their last two albums. The second track – ‘Mayflower’ – is a tough, manly, Rolling Stones-type song, backed by a horn section; it’s a pretty fun number, but it seems like it’s supposed to sound a lot more exciting than it really is.
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As the album moves along, there are a few more quirky moments, but the majority of the compositions are quite run of the mill, not really adding anything to the sound styles Shaun Fleming has decided to attempt to emulate. The lyrics aren’t anything to write home about either, I doubt there was too much intention for them to be memorable anyway. Love themes in lyrics are fine, they’ll always have their place in music and almost every rock artist uses them, but the song ‘Tams Up’ is a good example of how uninspired an artist can look when just repeating old clichés like “I just wanna be with you” – the vintage ‘60s “shooby-doo-wop” backing vocals are cute though.
The song ‘Everyday’ is perhaps the best example of Fleming taking all of his intentions for this album and cramming them into something worthwhile; the instruments are arranged quite beautifully, and his vocals are at their most powerful. The chorus is hard not to like, with its lush female backing vocals being lurked over by a big, booming delivery from Fleming. ‘I Dig You’ is also fun, with some really cool organ sounds, and a gritty glam-rock edge.
‘Everybody’s a Good Dog’ isn’t a bad album, it just contains a few too many clichés that someone who plays with a band as special and imaginative as Foxygen could be avoiding. There are a few interesting moments where things get a bit more experimental and unusual, but on the whole, things feel a bit too flat, with a few too many done-to-death, unoriginal ideas.
Diane Coffee – ‘Everybody’s a Good Dog’ is out now via Western Vinyl.