LETHAL IN LEATHER - DollSquad (Radio Rocks)
Melbourne band DollSquad ride that often precarious highway between good girl group pop and bad chick leather raunch, where the toll collector is a greaser punk with a flick knife and the currency is garage good times.
There's lots of history behind DollSquad. Leader Joey Backseat has presided over domestic and overseas line-ups, basing herself in Europe for a stint. Once a trio, now bumped out to a six-piece, DollSquad are known for their photogenic looks, tight leather outfits and massive hair. Their shows are entertaining T with a capital E. The album's a chance for people outside their considerable live following to hear the music.
The 10-second feedback streak that opens the first cut, "Cave Gurl", tells you DollSquad mean business. There's nothing too surprising here; it's straight-up garage crunch with few frills, and Joey's sassy vocal is the focal point. The other key elements are Alice's vamping keyboards, which come to the fore on a few tracks but most prominently on "Dreaming", and Yolanda's guitar work, which is rock solid throughout.
"Rock n Roll Boy" isn't based on the most original theme - let's face it, what chick band hasn't sung about wanting to go out with Joey Ramone? - but coming from DollSquad, it has a cheeky buzz - and more importantly, enough attitude - to make you think that if the guy could re-materialise, a trip to Coney Island with all six of these gals is on the cards. Plenty of other good songs abound but a special mention for "Cool Baby", which is a ride on the Stax soul train with backing vocalist Lulu shadowing Joey.
All-girl garage bands inevitably draw comparisons with the Pandoras who seem to be everybody's favorite primal ladies, but DollSquad don't stoke the engine room in the same crude way. If pushed, I'd suggest they were playing in the same sandpit as the current New York Dolls where the execution is a bit more precise. In other words, Dollsquad sound more '70s than '60s. DollSquad's songs are all Joey-Yolanda co-writes with the exception of a rippling cover of The Five Canadians' "Writing On The Wall".
Production by Steve Lucas (of X) is uncluttered and punchy. Lucas puts himself on the other side of the plate glass for a duet with Joey ("He's My Thing") that works itself into a lather (and sounds like Big Fun.) The one real departure from the expected is "Evertthing", a Ronnie Spector-style ballad with haunting piano. Nooice. - The Barman
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RETRO DOLLS FROM HIPSVILLE - Dollsquad (self released)
From the cheesy pink cover art and co-ordinated mini skirts, I pegged this as just another throwback '60s go-go girl band. Please, not another Josie and the Pussycats - as cool as the cartoon was, I don't want the soundtrack. Just shows (again) how stupid it is to judge a book (or EP) by its cover...
There's almost as much pop history packed into the four tracks here than the whole series of "Walk On By", and it's played with gusto, finesse and spirit. And as much originality as rocking garage pop can muster these days. From the slinky bassline, perfectly pitched backing chorus and climbing chord progression of "Baby Doll" (the centrepiece) to the vaguely new wave-ish Motor City tribute "Roll With You", it's tremendous stuff. "In the Meantime" and the bouncy "Boy From Germany" aren't half bad either.
Dollsquad hails from Melbourne and its core is singer Joey, guitarist Julie and bassist Janet. The sharp-eyed will note Clare Moore is behind the drum kit, erstwhile drummer for Dave Graney's bands and The Moodists. If you're going to hire an extra hand, you might as well go for a Recorded live (as many great ones are) at Sing Sing with a few guitar overdubs, "Retro Dolls..." sounds engaging, immediate and fresh. Like the Crystals on a Harley, or the Shirelles with a rock heart, riding four songs that are short, sharp and to the point.
These gals have shared a bill with The Stems and the 5 6 7 8's and if their studio work is an indication they measure up well enough to headline in their own right. The basis of all good rock and roll is the engine room and Janet and Clare take care of that. Joey has an excellent range and her vocals aren't far removed from those of Ally Spazzy. Guitarist Julie (lots of 'J' names in this band) does a lot more than strum barre chords, her tone clean with just the right touch of raunch.
Melbourne seems to be prolific in its recent output of girl bands (the aforementioned Spazzys and Remake Remodel two others with impressive claims) so Dollsquad is in good company. It's hip to be retro when you do it your own way. The only question is: Why wasn't it an album?
– The Barman
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