Brighton’s THE ROCKET DOLLS formed ten years ago and released their debut album ‘Eyes’ to critical acclaim in 2014. The band have opened for some hard hitters including BLACK STONE CHERRY, and cite NIRVANA, FOO FIGHTERS and ALICE IN CHAINS among their influences. Recorded at London’s British Grove Studios, ‘DeadHead’ has been a long time in the making, due in part to vocalist/guitarist Nikki Smash’s health battles, which are reflected in the song lyrics. Says Smash, “It just started pouring out of me, the riffs, lyrics and melodies moulding the vibe of each song, and creating a monster of a dark, fighting, battle laden, anthemic rock album. It’s both a very personal album, but also a reflection on modern day society”.
First track, and first single to be taken from this album is ‘None of This is Right’, which starts with a punchy beat, then a crunchy, grungy riff before the emotion-fuelled vocals begin. “There’s a bomb in my head and when I see red…none of this is right”; It’s clearly a personal track. Says Smash, “It’s a summary of my whole situation at the time, recovering from being ill and being addicted to prescription painkillers and the confusion of knowing what is happening and fighting yourself to stop”. The song is full of heavy guitar hooks and has a catchy chorus that sticks in your head.
‘She’s Starting Something Now’ has raw edges and a much heavier feel. It starts with a fantastic grungy riff and pounding bass and drums. It has more vocal layers, giving the track an almost ethereal quality despite the rather angry vocals. The track was written after Smash had watched a documentary about women getting revenge on their abusers by tracking them down and torturing them. He says, “I became incredibly inspired about revenge being sweet”.
Title track ‘DeadHead’ is about Smash’s battle with depression, drugs and prescription painkillers, and about realising things needed to change.The track starts with some nice guitar picking, which leads into crashing cymbals and a lovely heavy riff and some melodic vocals before the song gets heavier. There is a lovely simplistic bridge with just Smash’s vocals before a neat guitar solo. There are some great rhythmic variations on this track too. I love it!
Although ‘She Said’ was written about how Smash thought he might lose his family due to his battle with anxiety, it is a guitar-strumming, toe-tapping, sing-along tune that is quite simplistic compared to some of the other songs on this album.
If you thought this album was missing a big rock ballad, have no fear, ’The Last Thing on my Mind’ is about learning about yourself and being true to yourself. It’s actually a song that Smash wrote a while ago but thought it fit with the rest of this album. It has all the elements you would expect from a ballad, and the sentiments are ideal.
Despite its less than cheerful title, ’Stop the Dead Men Crying’ is actually about appreciating the people around you who love you. This song is full of foot stomping moments, interspersed with softer ones. The contrast is brilliant, and it’s great to be able to hear the drums and bass better during the softer vocals, I love how the rhythm section instruments sound like they are talking to each other.
Of ‘Drowning’, says Smash, “One of the darkest songs I’ve ever written and probably ever will, ‘Drowning’ is about being very close to suicidal thoughts and feelings and battling depression, which we are all advocates for - the battle for fighting depression and anxiety and mental health in the band”. Lyrically, the song is really dark, as you’d expect. If you’ve had personal experience of mental health issues such as depression, suicidal thoughts or feelings, you might find it hard to listen to. Musically, it is another track of contrast, with really quite heavy, grungy aspects, and much softer elements too.
‘The Desperate’ was written when the big UK elections were taking place, and are the first lyrics the trio wrote together and is a fast-paced, tuneful track. Although it’s lyrically political, and quite angry, musically it is a really tight piece and the trio really gel well. Although at rock bottom when he wrote ‘Strain’, Smash sees it as an empowering song. He says, “You can get through anything if you fight hard enough”. The pounding drum beat and groovy guitar riff at the beginning of the song give way to several changes of tempo and rhythm. I really like the way the vocals give way to slight musical interludes, it’s really refreshing.
When ‘Rusty Bones’ starts, there’s the low grumbling bass line and relentless drum beat that the Knopfler and Constable rhythm section tend to employ. The song has an industrial quality and does conjure up images of rusty bits of machinery. The riffs in this track and the added sounds like someone knocking on a door, combined with the vocal effects work really well to make it a track that gets into your brain and stays there!
‘Trigger’ is the continuation of ‘She’s Starting Something Now’ and starts with a really throbbing bass line, giving way to a low groovy riff and and lyrics that are quite dark. The vocals are unexpectedly melodic in the middle, then work their way up to be more angry. The pace of the track picks up towards the end then finishes abruptly.
‘DeadHead’ combines elements of rock, punk and grunge and melds them all together. I wasn’t quite sure about this album after the first listen, but it’s definitely a grower. I reckon these guys would be worth catching live, and it just so happens they’re out and about in April…dates below!
’DeadHead’ is released on 6th April 2018, but you can pre-order it here:-
None of This is Right
She’s Starting Something Now
The Last Thing on my Mind
Stop the Dead Men Crying
THE ROCKET DOLLS band members:-
Nikki Smash - vocals and lead guitar
Benji Knopfler - drums and backing vocals
Joe Constable - bass and backing vocals
THE ROCKET DOLLS are touring the UK in April:-
6th - Southampton, The Firehouse
7th - Worthing, Bar42
10th - Sheffield, West Street Live
11th - Newcastle, Trillians Rock Bar
12th - Edinburgh, Bannermans
13th - Glossop, The Globe
14th - Birmingham, The Hammer & The Anvil
15th - Northampton, The King Billy Rock Bar
19th - Swansea, Creature Sound
20th - Weymouth, Finns
21st - London, Dublin Castle
Watch the video for first single from the album ‘None of This is Right’ here:-
Nikki Smash shaved his beard off for Mind, the mental health charity. You can still donate here:-