What does growing up look like for pop punks? It looks a lot like The Dollyrots who, on their eight album, are married, parents, and still having as much fun as when they were a fresh, young band out of California.
Night Owls is definitely the most mature album from The Dollyrots. That sounds strange considering that big, silly songs are a staple of any Dollyrots album, but, on Night Owls, even a goofy song like “Hot Mom With the Skinny Pants On” demonstrates something deeper, namely a yearning for new friendships as an adult, which many people find to be elusive. This is clearly a pop-punk album from a band with a mortgage and a minivan, and they’re not particularly hiding it. Instead, Night Owls celebrates the maturity that the band has achieved and reminds us that growing up is a privilege.
For all that maturity, though, opening track “5+5” bounds forward with the energy of a toddler jumping into their parents’ bed to wake them up. Still, the lyrics are about finding the beauty in someone who doesn’t see it in themselves, which is a theme that might be lost in the cruelty of youth. “I Just Wanna Play Dead” speaks to the exhaustion of being parents and finding peace in your partner even after years of marriage. Then it’s hard to ignore the confident swagger of the title track that looks back on The Dollyrots’ youth while also giving a nod towards their present.
“When We’re Sober” keeps the good times rolling with its absolutely effortless pop hooks. Then “Hey Girl” gets playful about sexuality while still being anchored monogamously to one person. While the what-if-I-was-gay pondering could have come off as condescending in less skilled hands, Ogden handles it deftly and creates something that’s cute without being offensive. “The Vow” is a pretty blatant example of the married couple singing a love song to each other, but they’re such an endearing couple that it’s hard to find their love anything but endearing as well. And, if “The Vow” does get a big saccharine for you, “Trees Sway” is one of the band’s most earnestly emotional tracks.
“Alligator” has a similar swagger to the title track and the bizarre imagery leaves it obtuse enough to be open to interpretation. The band continue their love of cover songs by closing out the record on a cover of Billy Bragg’s “A New England,” although they cite Kristy MacColl’s cover in interviews when talking about their decision to cover the classic tune. It’s a soulful cover of the wistful ballad, albeit from a pair of lovers who haven’t known what it’s like to be single since their teen years.
Nobody said that punk had to have an age limit, or that you had to shed your leather jacket and spikes just because you hit certain milestones in life. The Dollyrots make sure we never forget that and continue to churn out pop-punk hits for those struggling to pay for their kids’ private preschool. Their music is highly reflective of their lives, which they’ve given fans a deep dive into through social media, and they give you an important reminder not to let your bad back keep you out of the mosh pit.