The Rocket Dolls – ‘The Art Of Disconnect’

By Ian Kenworthy

Big riffers The Rocket Dolls are hardly new kids on the block, having worked tirelessly playing around their native Brighton and beyond since 2008. All this persistence paid off, and their bombastic 2018 album ‘Deadhead’ arrived with generous praise, aimed mostly at its powerful sound: a type of hard rock that actually rocks hard. The three-piece loves nothing more than meaty, bulldozing riffs, but such an unrelenting sound is difficult to maintain and so, wisely, they have diversified their palette on new album ‘The Art Of Disconnect’. While still retaining the huge sound of their previous record, they’ve pushed themselves to create something deeper and more meaningful. A tricky task when their best songs bask in stomping guitar work and choruses that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Royal Blood record. And yet, they have risen amiably to the challenge.

Setting out with the title track, a slow building, brooding number (with a fair helping of gutsy guitar lines), they quickly establish a new angle to their sound. It shapes everything that follows, but never loses sight of the band’s key style – the riffs certainly haven’t gone away and songs like ‘At A Price’ are sturdy and rocksteady. Numerous times, you’ll find yourself smiling as the band synchronise their playing and unleash a hefty barrage of sound, especially on the relatively straightforward ‘Enthusiasm and Fumes’, which builds upon its initial premise before coming in out of leftfield and hammering you with its breakdown. It wouldn’t sound out of place in a hardcore song and proves the band still know how to rock. If you’ve heard single ‘The Grip’, you’ll also have noticed it has all the glorious riff-based excess of Muse’s ‘Psycho’, assuming Matt Bellamy had spent a month gargling with gravel. Equally, ‘Who I’ve Become’ features a tone ripped straight from the nu-metal playbook, and it’s an absolute beast.

Front man Nikki Smash has the kind of voice that doesn’t soar through notes but can still hold a tune, adding a tonne of emotion to boot. Throughout the album, he offers a series of different flavours while remaining powerful and gritty, most notably on ‘The Clear Light Of Self Hatred’ which, while catchy and upbeat, is sold entirely on his singing. His performance is never too harsh and draws you in with his softer crooning on the slower songs, yet there is an emotional edge to his voice that keeps it grounded, even when the music heads for the stratosphere. On ‘Slow Motion Ruin’ he uses this versatility to really sell the anguished, pained lyrics, yet on ‘Blueprint For A Breakdown’ the grit he adds to the phrase “ever after” makes for a really strong hook, particularly once you factor in the song’s noisy guitar-abuse style solo – definitely one of the record’s highlights.

The album’s overall sound has a rough and raw edge, meaning it’s never too polished, even on songs like ‘Art of the Disconnect’, which uses strings to fill out the space. For the most part the band use a power-trio approach, giving Smash the chance to play loosely around Joe Constable’s pounding basslines, all while Benji Knopfler’s drums hold everything together. At thirteen songs, the album feels a little over-stretched, and consequently the final third sags somewhat. It’s sorely missing the band’s trademark power, and tracks like ‘If I Could Trade Me For A Day’ feel woefully uninspired and, lasting less than two dull minutes, fail to deliver a punch.

The Rocket Dolls have revealed their softer side on ‘The Art Of Disconnect’ – it’s a deep and surprisingly rich album, offering scope to their established template. While not completely satisfying, there is quality and maturity throughout, making it worth a listen.

IAN KENWORTHY

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