Chronicling The Dollyrots’ career thus far isn’t a particularly arduous task, but it isn’t exactly interesting either. They got their big break signing to Joan Jett’s label Blackheart Records, became mixed in the same circle as Bowling For Soup and have pretty much stayed there ever since. And seeing as they’ve never had that one smash to gauge everything against (though 2007’s Because I’m Awesome probably came the closest), the numerous releases they’ve been churning out since have essentially gone ignored by everyone other than their real diehards. Therefore it might come as a shock that Whiplash Splash is actually the duo’s seventh full-length, as well as being their first studio release since 2016’s utterly forgettable EP Mama’s Gonna Knock You Out.
And credit where it’s due, while Whiplash Splash isn’t exactly a great album and still packs a laundry list of problems, it’s at least an improvement. Unlike the EP, there’s clearly been more care put into this, and it especially shows in the improvements made to the lyrics and delivery. The latter is perhaps less of a factor; Kelly Ogden still has a mercilessly saccharine, juvenile delivery that only makes tracks like Just Because I’m Blonde and Dance Like A Maniac seem all the more asinine, but when she actually switches into something a bit more reserved, the results are shockingly good, particularly the soft, supple Jump Start This Heart, a track painted with shades of ’90s pop-rock that makes for what’s easily the best track here. As for the lyrics, they mainly consist of snapshots of relationships that aren’t anything Shakespearean by any stretch, but there’s at least some depth and level-headed conflict to tracks like City Of Angels and especially Pack Of Smokes that at least holds onto attention more than underdeveloped templates.
The weak link in The Dollyrots’ chain is easily the production, and the subsequent effect that it has on the instrumentation. Obviously the band’s own description of their sound as ‘bubblegum punk’ leads to some expectations of their extreme polish, but Whiplash Splash goes the extra mile to really lay the sugar on thick. If the subtle yet gratingly unmissable electronic twinkles on I Do aren’t bad enough, they become even more teeth-itching on Saturday Night. That’s not even mentioning when the instrumentation itself drops out to match this, as on This Addiction or Other Trucker, which clearly has Jaret Reddick’s fingerprints all over it beyond his far-too-loud backing vocals, or the sickly, sappy content of a track like Squeeze Me that clashes horribly with one of the album’s most saccharine instrumentals. Away from these intrusive features, Luis Cabezas’ riffs have pop-rock’s typical lack of texture, but they’re at least chunky and infectious enough to have some staying power like on Babbling Idiot or Pack Of Smokes, even if the seemingly guaranteed winning cover of Katrina And The Waves’ Walking On Sunshine is only okay.
Even so, Whiplash Splash is still decent overall, a definite step up from their last EP. By now, The Dollyrots share even more with Bowling For Soup than previously, in that theyre similarly reliable at knocking out a new release every couple of years that does well to sate the appetites of their fans. Even by that merit (and the fact that they’re now seven full-lengths in), Whiplash Splash is still a pretty good effort, even if it doesn’t really do much to stand out in the long run. But then again, standing out has never been The Dollyrots’ strongest suit, and by that merit, Whiplash Splash does everything it really needs to.
For fans of: Bowling For Soup, The Donnas, Patent Pending
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Whiplash Splash’ by The Dollyrots is out now on Arrested Youth Records.