I first encountered DOLLS when friends and I stopped off at The Water Rats in London’s King Cross for a drink on the way to a gig at The Scala. DOLLS were sound checking their gig and we were close enough to the backroom door that we could hear them. They sounded great and after they emerged, we had a quick chat bought a CD. On the strength of this we subsequently went to the International Women’s Day show at London’s historic George Tavern where their infectious garage pop/rock caused much jumping around and grinning from the audience.
DOLLS are Bel on drums and vocals and Jade on guitar and vocals and like all duos (e.g. Deap Vally, Drenge, White Stripes) the limitations of having only two musicians is also their greatest strength as it creates a rock-solid core of riff, tune, rhythm where both players have to develop ESP or fall at the first hurdle. When there’s nowhere to hide it’s all about the power of the songs and DOLLS do not disappoint. Eggshells is the first release since 2018’s Pop The Bubble EP and was released to coincide with Love Record Store day. These four new tracks demonstrate how much their duo has grown into being a single unit over the years since early releases like ‘Kid Kannibal’. Lyrically it tackles many of the things that DOLLS have been dealing with since those early days: “the struggles that we have faced in our 20’s. Losing friends, creepy men, the strive for perfectionism and day-to-day anxiety. We have written about what we feel is really important as we get older.”
Eggshells demonstrates DOLLS command of light and dark, the soaring updraft of a great tune and the devastating smackdown combination of a power-chord and drum assault. Opening track ‘Bubble Bath’ is a slow build and the first song on the EP to confront how women’s bodies are perceived and the silly notion of an ‘ideal’ shape. It delivers a full throttle, power-chord, chorus with a superbly catchy Sleeper-like tune for “It’s getting weird”. ‘Hot Bodies’ is a slow-motion build that pulls no punches about the nature of aspiration (for hot money, hot bodies) and delivers a final half of Marshall-stacked power that will surely be amazing live. ‘Secret Ugly Baby’ has the same feel that you get when you are being pulled up to the apex of the highest part of a roller coaster with a gentle start, that give you chance to admire the view, but then the apprehension of the impending drop looms and, when it does, it’s exhilarating. Closing track ‘Eggshells’ deals with how hard it is to avoid treading on people’s feelings and how sometimes you have to just weather “eggshells breaking under my feet”. It’s the most out and out pop track on the EP, filled with a great confection of twinkling riffs, power toms and hooks on hooks and, if there’s any justice, should be on the 6Music A-playlist.
Eggshells is a fine addition to the DOLLS catalogue but despite Jade and Bel being locked down in London and Spain respectively, I really hope they are well on the way to planning a full album release that I’m sure their fans (myself included) crave.
Review by Paul F Cook