- Doll Gods, Summerhead
(Self-released, digital download)
Doll Gods are a Vermont band that never really happened — that is to say, they never performed live and broke up shortly after recording their debut LP, Summerhead. Three of the lo-fi, alt-punk quartet's members — drummer Aaron Wright, rhythm guitarist/vocalist Allison Carey and bassist Callan Clarke — now reside in Boston. Only lead guitarist Paul Ouellette remains in the 802.
Recorded live with minimal overdubs, Summerhead is charmingly rough around the edges. It seems the group indulged all of its wild and wacky instincts without judgment or overthinking, which gives the seven-track album a fleeting, spontaneous energy. Experimentation is manifested in full force: atonal screaming, bass so overdriven it sounds as if it'll tear apart your speakers and spastic guitars that seem to be in the throes of a tickle attack. It's whimsical, chaotic and bewildering.
Carey intones her phrases with caustic riot-grrrl modulation but occasionally drifts away from spunky Kathleen Hanna fury into a place that seems more punitive than righteous. Mostly, her scathing grit is captivating.
"There's fire in my feet," she sings on opening cut "I'm a Witch." Part alt-'90s misanthropy, part backwater twang, the wholly empowering song is about not shutting the fuck up. It figuratively nods to folks clad in pink pussy hats.
A dark, fuzzed-out surf riff opens "Ally" before erupting into double-time madness. In shouted bursts, Carey condemns American decay. Ratcheting up the mania, the tempo rises like mercury before a savage conclusion of wailing and indiscriminate shredding.
"Dumpster Head" is an even-keeled, two-chord ode to fringe-dwelling freaks who refuse to be marginalized. Carey opts for more singing than shouting, channeling '80s ladies such as Belinda Carlisle and Kate Pierson as she chants, "Come closer, bulldozer / Six feet under / We'll play red rover / And I'll tell you when it's over."
The only instrumental track, "Wave Upon Wave," starts with thick bar chords before morphing into psychedelic mayhem. Meandering, effects-laden licks intertwine with shuffling drums that shift into an epic, tom-heavy solo.
"Snakes in the Grass" brings the record back to the beach with more surf vibes, but it's a cloudy day. A shapeless intro of forlorn, picked guitar and shimmering cymbals dissolves into a lyrically unsettling, minor-key romp. Set against the song's inky palette, there aren't many ways to interpret lines like, "A diamond hymen / A girl so frail / I keep on tryin'," or "Snakes in the grass / I wait for her after class."
Though we may not hear from Doll Gods again, we're lucky to have the artifact they left behind. It's fearless and brash, and its very existence is evidence that it's always best to go for it even when the road ahead is uncertain.
Summerhead is available at dollgods.bandcamp.com.