THE DOLLYROTS – Christmas Time With You / The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)

Since the turn of the millennium, The Dollyrots have been an important fixture on the pop punk scene. In an era where so many “punk” bands took a more emo route, vocalist Kelly Ogden and friends constantly served up classic pop punk riffs – 90s style – injected with a little power pop sugariness, which often put the band somewhere between peak blink-182 and the noisier elements of Letters To Cleo. Naturally, their often buoyant and fun approach to everything attracted Jaret Reddick and his band Bowling For Soup. Strong bonds were made in the name of friendship, and over the years, the two bands could often be found sharing a stage or three.

The Dollyrots’ boundless energy and gift for a massive chorus makes them the ideal pop punk act to deliver an alternative festive anthem – and ‘Christmas Time With You’ is just that. In exactly three minutes, the number cranks through several tight pop punk riffs, driven by a dirty edge and muted chords, under which, a typically crashy drum part adds plenty of weight. The effect, in less than twenty seconds is like revisiting those old, much loved early recordings by Goldfinger, Showoff and Fenix TX, and Kelly’s lead vocal calls out with a real clarity, though without ever sacrificing a brilliantly bratty edge. Luis Cabezas is on hand with more of a traditional pop punk vocal during the second verse, but between them, this marriage of sweetness and a melodic grit is pretty much perfect. From these great foundations, the song’s pre-chorus bathes everything in a broader melody that reminds everyone of how easy The Dollyrots are able to stir some great power pop into their jagged mix, and during an even bigger and more melodic chorus, the broad power pop strokes – falling somewhere between Bowling For Soup and Letters To Cleo – convey the duo at their most optimistic. Factor in various harmonic guitar noises in lieu of a more traditional guitar solo and this track becomes a hugely well rounded affair that doesn’t wear thin quickly.

The release’s flip side, on the other hand, is a very different story, when The Dollyrots take The Chipmunks’ ‘The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)’ and rework it – at least partially – in their own image. The discordant guitar work is great, presenting a mix of energetic pop punk and old fashioned CBGB’s style grubbiness, and Kelly’s hefty bass sound adds a lot of muscle to the familiar tune, but that’s where the enjoyment effectively ends. All of the band’s best musical chops are pretty much made redundant when a novelty vocal takes the reins. In keeping with the original cut, various vocals are pitch-adjusted and multi-tracked to give everything its “chipmunk style”, and as such, it isn’t long before those voices – billed as “The Dollytots” – begin to grate. Of course, some might love this recording’s shameless nod to a genuine novelty, and the song will certainly play better to those in the US where The Chipmunks’ original has become a yuletide staple, but it’s pretty irritating to say the least.

The lead track here is brilliant – a sharp as hell instant classic that acts as a very welcome reminder of the ’Rots natural gifts for pop punk greatness. That alone will be enough for a download to be considered worth the cents. The novelty elements of the cover tune, on the other hand, suggest a “play once and move on” approach for most listeners, making this very much a release of two halves. For the massive fan, of course, ‘Christmas Time With You’ will be considered essential in record time, and it makes a great addition to 2014’s ‘A Very Dollyrots Christmas’ LP – and that alone makes this all worthwhile.

December 2022