God, but Soho Dolls are LOUD. So loud in fact that it’s a good idea to check the volume setting before you slip them in, and drop it by a couple of notches if you don’t want your ears to bleed.
That, however, is about the only criticism there is to find in this truly lovely package, the debut album from a band who wear their influences on their sleeve(notes), producing dark electro-glam of a lushness not heard since the synthtastic early ’80s.
Think Human League crossbred with early Depeche Mode – with whom they share producer Steve Lyon – or Heaven 17 chatting up Soft Cell and fronted by a post-punk princess.
In lead singer Maya von Doll, they even have the best rock’n’roll name we’ve come across this year. They’re burlesque glamour and sleaze, wrapped up in clothes they’ve raided from the dressing up box while trying to decide whether tonight they’re going to be The Horrors, Strawberry Switchblade or a circus troupe of young Keith Richards lookalikes.
If that wasn’t great enough, the music is brilliant. Upbeat, disco-tinged without being cheesy, taking all the best parts from glam and adding them to a Gothy, new century cabaret chic that no doubt translates brilliantly into live performance. Their opening number, Stripper, is Maya addressing the audience, introducing the band and talking you through the evening’s activities – metapop, anyone?
Lyrically, their songs are simplistic, but fun in the way they’re not taking themselves too seriously. From the Goth-friendly My Vampire, a cute little tale of girl-loves-fangman, to the punktastic Trash The Rental (chorus repeat hook: “Trash it trash it! It’s just a rental”; last line: “Pull down all their fences/We’ll take ’em, it’s our offensive”) to songs of eyeliner and weekend clubbing, this is pure feel good music.
With stomping rhythms, dancing synth lines and enough guitars to keep the rock’n’rollers happy, the Sohodolls could well offer enough to please everyone. Supporting Klaxons and Daft Punk over the summer, they must have seemed like the icing on the cake for the lucky audiences.
Their past lies in the Rhythm Factory scene, but they sound much slicker and cleaner than you might expect from that – the only link that remains is Robert Harder, a co-producer they share with Babyshambles, but look to his other work with bands such as The Sunshine Underground for a better indication of their sound. Their music belongs on the dancefloor more than the dark room at the back of a Camden pub.
Poppy, sleazy, dancey and dirty, they’re music for Friday night stress relief, shaking the week away on the dancefloor to the strains of 1724, a tale of an age gap that’s oh so temptingly close to dangerous. They remain on that edge throughout this album, a little bit dirty but clean enough to scrub up spotless. And for those of you wondering what to stick on in the car on the way to the festival/holiday/long day out, they’re 2007’s best driving music so far. No contest.