Artist: The Dollyrots
Album: The Dollyrots
Label: Arrested Youth Records
Four albums in, it’s business as usual for pop rock duo The Dollyrots on this eponymous release. The band’s sound is clinically breezy and spirited as always; the album laden with feelgood, suitably infectious anthems and odes to carefree living. It’s a populist and thoroughly enjoyable record, with the only potential criticism the flimsiness of it all. It doesn’t seek to endure or engage or antagonise but is more about enjoyment and cheer, rejecting any darkness or gravitas in favour of something more upbeat and in-your-face. The Dollyrots may accordingly lack long-term prospects, but there’s something about its shameless pursuit of sunshine and frivolities that actually makes it more convincing than many of the also-rans. In refusing to take itself too seriously or foist faux dramatics on its listeners, it endears by providing a summery snapshot of the kind of glitzy guitar pop that’s died a death of late.
This is a long-winded way of saying that it’s just uproarious good fun.
Many of this wouldn’t go amiss on the Josie and the Pussycats soundtrack, and this is intended as as huge a compliment as possible (you really don’t know what you’re missing if you haven’t heard it). Suffice to say, if you’re looking for the ‘punk’ part of the band’s genre description, look elsewhere. This is about as vigorously poppy as pop can get and that’s perfectly OK. “I Wanna Go” kicks things off exactly as the band mean to go on. Casual, straightforward, and loveable, it bounds in and out with a richly jovial flair that’s all but irresistible. “Satellite” is equally enjoyable and undemanding, though with a slightly rougher edge in the husky vocal interludes. “Twist Me to the Left” delivers a blueprint in how to compose dismissive, relentless popular rock anthems while “F U Famous” offers a rhythmic and pointed rebuke that’s fun and frolicking in spite of its predictably disposable sound.
The record is largely composed of such breathy, exhilarating tracks and it has a real vitality because of it. This inevitably makes it a bit obvious and even formulaic at times – “Pretty on the Outside”’s sneering dismissal of the popular type has been done a thousand times, and Courtney Love is still the only one to have infused it with real venom – but The Dollyrots is not without a few surprises. “South of the Border” and “After 2012” are both quirky and distinctive, adding some instrumental flourishes that spice up the record considerably. “South of the Border” is completely disaffected, its easygoing pace and warmth comparing well with the speed of the other tracks. “After 2012” is an entirely unexpected little gem. Set in the midst of a dystopian apocalypse, its earnest pleas are completely charming and really sweet. It’s slower and more careful than the others, and the only one with real atmosphere. The use of bells and strings makes the sense of longing palpable so that although the lyrical story is quite cartoonish, the sound is vivid and alive and actually quite captivating.
The Dollyrots certainly won’t win any awards for originality, but its makers can rest assured that they have done a service to their genre. This is mischievous and exuberant songwriting that comes straight from the heart. It mightn’t leave the most lasting of impressions but there is more to this than meets the eye, and a few moments that will unexpectedly seize the imagination.
Review written by Grace Duffy