Doll Skin - Love is Dead and We Killed Her - (9.5/10)
Published on July 5, 2019
Teen Angst Grows Up. Becomes Even More Awesome.
Phoenix, Arizona is probably one of the last places you would think of for anything other than desert rock but Doll Skin are here to dispel that notion and rock your socks off. Although they have not been around that long, they have already made their mark on the punk world with the unbridled energy of their music. Yes, it is definitely in the realm of pop punk rather than the garage punk from days of yore. However, these girls have three times as much energy, passion and creativity as any other pop punk band in the last 30 years. Love is Dead and We Killed Her is their third album, coming just two years after the rousing success that was Manic Pixie Dream Girl and is sure to offer more catchy punk tunes that kick your ass into next week!
As kickass and immensely fun as MPDG was, this new album takes things up a notch or two in every capacity but especially in the percussion and songwriting departments. Most times, this would be the paragraph extolling the virtues of the riffs and melodies but in this case, Meghan’s drumming is what stands out the most. Her fills and patterns were always very solid but it feels like she totally let loose on this album, really kicking things up a couple notches. The most interesting part is that it is not just a display of greater skill (although that is certainly there). No, what really stands out is Meghan’s willingness to go all in on both sides of Doll Skin, the super fun teenage girl side and the skilled artist side. This means an uptick in march patterns but more importantly, increased intricacy in the basic patterns. Perhaps the most complete display of this increased skill and artistry is the banger “Empty House,” which has pounding beats, an incredible cymbal run in the middle, and some sweet off-pace beats that fit perfectly with the moody atmosphere of that section. If you want the fun side, Meghan delivers a double dose with “No Fear” and “Outta My Mind.” Seriously, if you are not clapping along with the drums in these songs, there may be something wrong with you. If you want a straight up energy bomb, listen to “When They Show Their Teeth” and be blown away by the sheer pace and energy of the entire song.
Now, let us talk about the RIFFS and the MELODIES because they are off the charts! The album opens with the banger “Don’t Cross My Path,” which is basically a song about immature teens throwing tantrums and how they are overdramatic. The opening melody is a lovely bit of melancholy, which is followed by a fast riff that borders on thrash and is repeated at various times in the song. When the main riff hits, it feels like a giant bass drop and hits you like a ton of bricks and the song does not stop there as it bangs along with plenty more great riffs. The recurring theme of this album is that Alex and Sydney clearly know how to maximize the power of the riff. Many bands in this style write songs to make the audience JUMP and while Doll Skin are no exception, they have more oomph behind the jump riffs than most bands. Most of Doll Skin’s songs are very upbeat, hard hitting jump tunes but within that context, Alex has crafted a number of slow melancholic melodies that remind the listener not everything is pixies and rainbows.
Honestly, good luck finding another pop punk album with as much diversity in the riffs and tempo structures as this one. Along with the big, powerful riffs, you have speedy riffs, meaty staccato riffs and booming riffs all in the course of an album that spans less than 40 minutes. Action packed would be an understatement for describing this album. Listen to the opening melody of “Nasty Man” and try to figure out where it came from because it is pretty unique and innovative. Along with Meghan’s excellent speedy drum run, this is one of the best and most compelling openings you will ever hear.
That does not even cover the great lyrics or the funky bass in the middle of the song that seems to come out of nowhere. Bass tends to get lost in the shuffle with rock-based music but every good bass player finds moments to do something cool and memorable. Nicole definitely finds her moments towards the back of this album and while they may not be great in number, she maximizes each moment for a very memorable performance with pretty neat lines. “When They Show Their Teeth” is an absolute rager of a track but it would not have nearly the same impact without Nicole’s subtle yet stellar bass lines. As an added bonus, if you watch their music videos and/or see Doll Skin live, they all look like they are having the best time, especially Nicole who seems to thoroughly enjoy jumping up and down as a form of dancing.
This is what pure fun looks like!
Four body paragraphs and we have barely touched on Sydney’s killer vocals and the improved maturity of the lyrics on this album. Pop punk is not supposed to have this many layers! That is Doll Skin for you and that is what puts them head and shoulders above most of the bands in the genre. There were darker moments on Manic Pixie Dream Girl (“Persephone”) but Love is Dead and We Killed Her features a heck of a lot more of those, especially in the lyrics. This creates a compelling dichotomy given that Doll Skin’s music is as upbeat and fun as ever on this record. It adds a layer to the album to have a song like “Mark My Words,” which talks about being used as a toy and having a needle go in as a reminder of the “hell that I’ve been living in.” As powerful as the lyrics are, what really makes them soar is Sydney’s powerful, passionate delivery. You can have the greatest voice in the world but your lyrics will not play without a great delivery. Sydney absolutely nails both on this album (and live for that matter) and makes it a joy to listen to her and the rest of the band.
As far as range, Sydney has it all, the low growls, the punchy mid-range, the passionate yells (which are very punk), and the soft high voice and she knows exactly how to use each one of these vocal tools to get the most out of her voice. Most of the time, she uses her punchy mid-range and then goes into the yells to emphasize certain parts of the song, usually the chorus. The harsh vocals do not come up that often on this record but they are incredibly successful on “Don’t Cross My Path.” Oh and we would be remiss not to mention the really effective gang vocals that run throughout this album. Really it is just the four of them singing together but it has a lot of punch to it and they harmonize quite well (something of a lost art these days sadly). Perhaps the best vocal performance on this album is “Nasty Man” simply because this is where Sydney really shows off what she can do, starting in the mid-range and then going to the higher yells for the majority of the song. When the song slows down, she goes into that soft voice that is both beautiful and incredibly honest. You can be sure it is no coincidence that this is when the most brutally honest lyrics in the song hit. “She still holds a secret inside. The monsters in her room are ghosts of his lies.” You were not expecting lyrics that deep for a pop punk band, much less one consisting of four people under the age of 25, were you?
Intense, isn’t it?
If you have not already figured it out by now, these girls are going places. The maturity and improvement in the span of just two years from MPDG to this album is remarkable. Punk has always relied partly on angst and Doll Skin have that in spades but they manage to blend that with an enormous amount of pure, unadulterated fun and unbridled joy. Considering they are still fairly young and this is only their third album, it stands to reason that they will somehow get even better. How is a matter for the four of them to determine but if you enjoy pop punk in any capacity, go listen to this album and be blown away by its fury. If you enjoy catchy tunes and ear worms that refuse to leave your head no matter how hard you try, go listen to this album and delight in its insane catchiness. If you enjoy peeling back the layers of an album, immerse yourself in this album and you will be greatly rewarded when you discover all the little things each performer does to make the album more interesting. Most importantly, go check out their Facebook page and if they are coming to a town near you on their current tour with New Found Glory, GO SEE THEM LIVE because they are fantastic in that capacity too. Do it. You will be incredibly glad you did because not only are they great on stage, they are fun people who love meeting their fans.