CD Review: The Doctors Fox / Handful of Laughs
Reviewed by: Dorise Gruber
Kaleidoscopic Boston-based band The Doctors Fox will be releasing their sophomore album Handful of Laughs next weekend, and I had the good fortune of finagling a sneak-preview. Led by singer, bassist, and occasional mandolin player David Ladon, he receives support on this album not only from his very talented bandmates (including Josh Kiggans on percussion, Jonathan Dashkoff on guitar, electric violinist extraordinaire Ryan Aylward, and guitarist/occasional glock-ist Daniel Harris, previously featured on TWRY), but also spotlights other local artists Abbie Barrett, Scott Flynn (John Brown’s Body), Bryan Murphy (The Shills), and Chris Belden (Goosepimp Orchestra). Handful of Laughs is seriously playful and playfully serious, bringing together the neighborhood talent to accompany them on their journey of silly storytelling over skillful musicianship.
I’ve always associated The Doctors Fox as being funk-driven Klezmer and a bit They Might Be Giants-esque in their quipsterdom, but Handful of Laughs brings a new level of sophistication to the goofiness. While the funky Klezmer fun is still present in songs like their new single, “Gauge,” “Living Simple,” “Zonkers,” and “I’ll Never See Your Face Again,” I was surprised to hear more straightforward pop with “Kiguru,” Israeli singer-songwriter-meets-rockabilly in “Dictionary,” classic country in “Anabelle,” and a hilarious disco tribute to the silicone menstrual Diva Cup in “Diva.” I started cracking up listening to the lyrical ode: “Every time you care I smile knowing that you’re there/Every waking hour I feel your power in my underwear.”
“Diva” is not the only song where The Doctors Fox assign human emotions to an inanimate object in Tom Robbins fashion – indeed, one of the prettiest songs on the album is a ballad called “Yellow Button,” about a button found and rescued, only to once again disappear into the ether. The circus-country track “Carly” is the album’s other ballad, and these tracks are among my favorites on the record. I think the peak of the release, though, comes with the second-to-last track, “The Garden Song.” This track mixes tender harmonies with an orchestra of local talent, and while it begins sweetly, it expands to include rock, funk, and blues flavors, weaving between sweet and churning before it theatrically culminates in a Polyphonic Spree-like instrumentation, and finally fades as delicately as it began. “The Garden Song” is a good summation of the The Doctors Fox’s depth, and while it may be one of the most serious tracks on the album, it never loses its geniality.
A Handful of Laughs delivers precisely what it promises, and if you want to join in on the euphoria, I suggest you check out their cd release at Great Scott next Saturday, April 14th. My only word of caution: be prepared to be a bit sore the next day from all the grinning and hip-swiveling to come!