Last year, in the spring, I went to see Bowling For Soup. I’d never seen them before. I’m not sure I was prepared for it. I went from knowing a couple of songs to being a fan.

That night, if you’ll forgive the blatant Pink rip-off, The Dollyrots opened the show. They are, and this is meant as a compliment, the sweetest thing you’ve ever come across. “20 years of positivity” I’d written that night “is quite a legacy when you think about it”.

This is a roundabout way of explaining why I’d never written a review of the band before. Simply put I didn’t know how ace they were.

And everything about them that is ace is right here in “Night Owls” too.
That much is as plain as the day-glo world they inhabit right from the start of
“5 +5” a fizzbomb of positive thoughts. You are down on yourself? Kelly and Luis got your back. Just as they’ve got their own in “I Just Wanna Play Dead”. Nothing more and nothing less than power pop done right. Escape the real world with The Dollyrots, their world is much more fun.

Two decades into this, they know what they’re doing. “Night Owl” the (almost) title track has a chug and gorgeous harmonies, and the keyboards are pure 80s. There’s a genuine skill to this, and sometimes a serious message, as on “Hot Mom The Skinny Pants On” Kelly Ogden wants to be friends and you’ll think of Fountains Of Wayne, that said, the point here is that it’s hard to make friends when you get a certain age.
The trouble is – if that’s the right phrase – even when they are talking about deep subjects, the record fizzes. “Living on hard mode, the game has no cheat code” but “When We’re Sober” for all its seriousness, still sounds fun.

Elsewhere the bass on “Hey Girl” is not the dirtiest thing it contains:  “If I liked girls more, I’d be your girlfriend” offers Kelly, before she’s curious and fancies a night in a hot tub with a judge. Quite.

Then there’s “The Vow” and you can imagine them being theirs (the pair are a real-life couple). “I like you in sickness and in fun”. Seems to sum them (and the album) up, while “Trees Sway” is either a folky moment or “Time Of My Life” by Green Day, and “Tonight With You” has them hanging in the Honda. I had one once and nothing cool ever happened in mine.

if you think you’ve heard catchy, then you haven’t, until you’ve “Can’t Tell You Why”.
My eldest niece is nearly five and was described as “very social” by her teacher, even she’s not as full of beans as “Alligator”.

Indeed the only thing that doesn’t ring true here is “Irish Goodbye” In my experience usually requires the second word to be “off” but whatever, the song is a cracker.

And Billy Bragg’s “A New England” is closer here to “Kirsty McColl’s but in many ways it is a new-wave classic that suits perfectly. And credit to them for finding a way to put a stamp all of their own on it.

“Night Owls” – if you aren’t familiar with The Dollyrots- is best described as the pop-punk album you didn’t know you needed. If you know them, you know how good they are.

“Night Owls” is an absolute hoot (sorry).

Rating 8.5/10

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