Here at Addicted To Noise world headquarters, we sort of like the fact that the
Welsh trio 60 Foot Dolls fell well short of "Next Big Thing" status in Britain
(although their drab steeltown home of Newport, Wales did get the "next
Seattle" nod from a Dec. SPIN story on the hot Welsh rock scene).
Modest hit singles, an average amount of hype, a so-so selling debut
album, The Big 3 (released in England last summer, in the U.S. today)
and a sound that's thankfully shaggier and refreshingly sloppier than their
Brit Pop peers, the Dolls are that rare combination of punk, pop and dirty
white soul that sounds so invigorating the moment you hear it you can almost
remember the chorus mid-way through the next song.
The lead-off track,
"Happy Shopper," bolts off with a Clash-like drum roll and air-raid guitar
before dropping into a nice clip "we're so bored" tale of evil commerce and
working class woe. Half the time, singer/guitarist Richard Parfitt doesn't so
much sing the band's three minute disaffection anthems so much as squeeze them
out between the bulging veins in his neck, while struggling, and to these ears,
sometimes failing to find the right notes on his guitar. He and bassist Mike
Cole pound, flail and wail together so earnestly, though, on songs like the
strident "Loser," you might find yourself nodding in joyful agreement when
Parfitt spits "don't you know that everyone loves a loser/standing up and
"Pig Valentine" (produced by Mekon Jon Langford) bridges
an unholy marriage between The Alarm and Generation X (the Billy Idol band, not
the marketing concept) by dredging up pop music that's a little too
rambunctious and loose to be top 40 mind candy, with a typically spastic solo
by Parfitt and a bashing, trashing bottom supplied by drummer Carl Bevan. It's
not pretty ("Crashing out and killing time/ Feeling like a stupid child/ Build
it up and paint it blue"), but even on skiffle-like songs like the first single
"Stay," where the band bring to mind those foggy images of the pill-stoked
Beatles crunching out tunes on a tiny Hamburg stage, with a heavier backbeat
and over-the-top guitar solos, the Dolls honor their predecessors while
side-stepping the rote photocopying of so many Brit Poppers.
Records pushed back the release of the Dolls' debut from last summer because
they feared a new, energetic band like this might get lost in the shuffle of
superstar releases by R.E.M., Pearl Jam and U2 (who also got pushed back), but
given the Low Budget-era Kinks sound of songs like "Talk to Me" and the
commercially disappointing returns on those "big" releases, maybe the good
old-fashioned rock these boys play is just what the doctor ordered.
Dolls will start their first U.S. tour in mid-Feb. on the East Coast and have
finished work on the video for "Stay," directed by Lance Bangs, who created the
on-stage films for R.E.M.'s last tour.