If nothing else, it’s hard to fault The Dollyrots’ work ethic. They – or at least Kelly Ogden – always seem to have some sort of project on the go or in the works, and for a band like them never make too much of a splash with their work, it keeps a constant stream of momentum going that’s admirable. But it’s that exact thing that highlights The Dollyrots’ biggest shortcoming, specifically how the volume of work they put out seems to have no bearing on what progression they make. The Bowling For Soup comparisons have been made countless times, both in terms of sonic proximity and the tight-knit relationship between the two bands, but arguably even more pertinent is the lack of advancement from album to album, and how inertia seems to be basically the only driving force keeping them going.
As such, it’s not hard in the slightest to predict what Daydream Explosion has to offer for anyone who’s even remotely familiar with The Dollyrots’ output. Effectively, this is the same thing that they’ve been doing for years, with big, power-chord-driven pop-rock providing the basis to be further doused in sugar for the exact rush that this corner of the genre is regularly competent at, but never really excels at. In truth, that’s where the whole review could be left off; it’s not like The Dollyrots are bringing anything new to the table at all, and while there’s enough enjoyment to be found in what they’re doing, it’s nothing all that revolutionary or removed from what could be gained from any other of this band’s works.
It essentially means that any previous positives and negatives with regards to The Dollyrots’ past work can be applied here without much deviation, especially with regards to the writing. It’s definitely worth noting that this has never been the deepest or most lyrically intensive band around, but there’s only so far that incredibly basic and surface-level approaches to relationships, partying and the like can go, and Daydream Explosion does seem to be running in circles here. Tracks like Animal and I Know How To Party fall into party archetypes that, at this stage, don’t have much going for them, and Everything and I Love You Instead play to the wholesome but tired love song templates that The Dollyrots have utterly rinsed at this stage without much to differentiate them. There’s something a bit sweeter about No Princess that’s a nice change of pace (relatively speaking, of course), but on the whole, Daydream Explosion really does appear to be going through the motions in its writing, cycling through themes that are already surface-level and proceeding to scrape whatever little content from them that they can.
On the other hand though, the argument can easily be made that the main draw of The Dollyrots is the upbeat, accessible pop-rock canvasses that have always been suited to pair with their less-detailled form of writing. That can definitely apply to Daydream Explosion as well, even if, once again, there’s not really any progression being made, and the fun factor that’s been carried over from previous releases is pretty much the only boon they’ve got at this stage. Still, it lends a decent bratty energy to In Your Face, and the saccharine, super-clean production of Naked and Last Ones On Earth does have an appeal in how well it synergises with Ogden’s equally sweet vocals. As far as hooks and melodies go, The Dollyrots are still capable of delivering, even if there’s not much that renders these particular permutations as all that individual, nor do the band seem that focused on changing that. It’s easy to see why when it comes to the awkward detour into lounge-jazz on Flippy In My Red Dress, but it’d still be nice if The Dollyrots tried. They’ve got the melodic baseline on lock as always, but when they struggle to extend their reach beyond that, it makes for an album that, like in almost every other facet of it, exists only to keep this one thread of influence running.
And when viewed in that way, it feels like The Dollyrots are selling themselves short. They’ve got a great ear for composition and giving pop-rock the exuberance that it really needs, but when they continue to ply this very rigid formula with rarely a concession made, it can all just feel supremely boring and in desperate need of a shake-up. That’s not to say that there’s no enjoyment to be found from Daydream Explosion, but beyond the bubbly hooks that aren’t all that distinct from the band’s past work, it’s all just another variation on a theme that, in all honesty, doesn’t even vary that much. It’s fine for what it is, but it’s just a shame that what it is doesn’t have more to offer.
For fans of: Bowling For Soup, The Donnas, Army Of Freshmen
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Daydream Explosion’ by The Dollyrots is released on 12th July on Wicked Cool Records.