Los Angeles’ alternative pop/punk band The Dollyrots have produced another set of fun, offbeat, hard-core progressive punk/pop rock songs. This collection revisits some of the themes addressed in the band’s previous albums, exploring mostly innocent tales of romantic love, lust, rivalry, and adversity. While A Little Messed Up (Blackheart Records) still features the band’s staple of pop/punk rock anthems, it also contains a few early 60s style girl-group, pop songs as well. These songs take full advantage of lead singer/bassist Kelly Ogden’s sweet and sassy vocals.
The Dollyrots (comprised of Ogden, guitarist Luis Cabeza, and drummer Chris Black) gained notoriety from having the title track of their second album, Because I’m Awesome, featured in several television commercials and television shows. The up-front sense of humor conveyed in the lyrics of Because I’m Awesome is still prevalent on A Little Messed Up, but it comes in smaller doses and is a little more subtle. The one exception might be “Bigmouth,” a song about a two-faced backstabbing girlfriend.
“Rock Control”, the opening track of the disc, gets things off to a frenetic pace. It rocks with a no holds barred sense of urgency, just enough to peel the paint off the inside of your garage. When Ogden sings, “Just try to scream along, this is not rock and roll, it’s rock control”, she’s not just asking for your attention, she’s demanding it.” Right off the bat, you also find that the rhythm section of Ogden and Black is in good form as well.
“Some Girls” is another bouncy, onslaught of slightly overdriven electric guitar power. Luis Cabeza’s power chord riffs and Ogden’s bass propel the song throughout. There’s a nice key change in the last quarter of the song that helps put an instrumental accent on Ogden’s strong message. While Ogden, in her role as the song’s narrator, insists she would ignore a guy’s silly sexual advances, she also knows that there are some girls who would not even consider taking her advice.
But the real reason to be pleased with this disc and the artistic direction of The Dollyrots is best illustrated by the presence of some of the other songs, such as “Rollercoaster”, “Pour Tous Jours”, “California”, and “Dream Lover”. These are songs that stray outside the band’s normal comfort zone of the straight forward punk rock genre (100 beats per minute punk power rock chords, pounding drums, an abundance of words, screaming, and a sudden ending). All of the aforementioned songs pay homage to the 1960s girl group sound, but the arrangements are updated for the present day.
At the very least, these songs remind me of some of the work I’ve heard by Veruca Salt, Nina Gordon, Kay Hanley, and Kelly Deal. When the sweetness quotient in Kelly Ogden’s voice is scaled back a bit to a lower register, it really works well for her. This is especially evident on the Bobby Darin cover song (available as a bonus track on iTunes along with “Happy Together”) and “Rollercoaster”.
The Dollyrots are an intriguing band because Kelly Ogden’s saccharine sweet vocal tone is usually paired with the backbeat of a punk rock band. It’s an odd pairing, but it produces a ying-yang dynamic for the band’s image and music. It is also a major strength of the group, no doubt about it. On this record, it is now merely one facet of the group’s overall sound. Now the band is beginning to offer more diverse instrumentals, exploring different time signatures and, coupled with Ogden’s willingness to sing differently now and then, it opens up a whole new world of creative possibilities. It’s a win-win situation for everybody. It moves them past a lot of other typical LA punk bands. And that is the main reason I view A Little Messed Up as a step up for The Dollyrots.