April 17, 2017
Released On December 29, 2013
The first time I heard The Dolts, I was sitting in my friend’s bedroom in the wee hours of the morning. Nick Nitro, unlit cigarette hanging from his mouth, casually mentioned that he had performed guest vocals on a song by “this band called The Dolts,” and our friend Lou had engineered the record. Lou, sitting atop an armchair next to us, immediately pulled out his phone and played me the album in its entirety as he buzzed with energy. He was proud of what he had accomplished. As he should be. Within the first fifteen seconds, I knew that this was going to be a record that would stick with me.
At this time in my life, I was studying journalism and professional writing at Chestnut Hill College. And that was all I had going for me. I had just broken up with my boyfriend of four years and I had very few people I could call my friends. But I did have punk rock and the city of Philadelphia at my disposal.
I can’t pinpoint exactly when Blood, Guts, And Pizza hit me. It wasn’t the night it was introduced to me — we were all laughing and talking over it and Lou was animated in speaking about the recording process. How much he loved and appreciated this band. I do remember listening to The Dolts on repeat for the next couple of weeks. I remember hearing those lead vocals, which were charred, dense, dark, screeching, macabre. I remember the way the instruments all banged and clattered together in such a way that was the pinnacle of garage rock, only sped up and with more bite. Garage punk. My eyes had opened.
The Dolts made me laugh, and that was the first thing that caught me. “New Band” (formerly “Bitch Band”), is about the trials and tribulations of being the opening band at any given show. “We are the opening band / We’re gonna sleep in the van / We’re gonna show up late, it’s gonna be great / The amps don’t work anyway / You didn’t come to see us play / And you probably didn’t pay anyway!” There was something so deeply relatable about The Dolts in a comedic way. They were writing songs about what they were experiencing, but giving it a lighter (and sometimes silly) twist. It was all fun and games, and that was the point.
The Dolts weren’t throwing bells and whistles into a record that didn’t need them. Blood, Guts, And Pizza is a no-frills kind of release. Its stripped-down composition allows for its brilliant sound. Can you hear the power in the guitars on “Sludge?” The desperate, growling vocals in “On Ton?” What about the beautiful and simple instrumentation on “Time Travel?” The vocals in that song are absolutely ridiculous. He’s just blabbering! It’s total nonsense and it sounds incredible. I love it. I love it so much. It’s absolutely radiant. Blood, Guts, And Pizza covers all the bases and each song is so short that you don’t even have time to contemplate the last track before the next track beats the same kind of animosity into you.
This record ended up being the catalyst that led me to tirelessly attending as many shows as I could, searching for all the secret treasures that inhabited the city of Philadelphia. It changed the course of my writing career when I wrote about the band in my first ever piece for Dying Scene. I couldn’t be more thankful that this release exists. It has opened doors for me in ways I never imagined.
Blood, Guts, And Pizza is antagonism at its best. It is garage punk that is hostile and awake. It is gleaming teeth smiling at you in the back of your closet. It is make-believe nightmares that turn into a house party at the drop of a hat. That’s what I love about The Dolts. This duality of fun and darkness. It is so captivating. It’s everything I ever wanted out of a punk record and I didn’t even know I needed it. And that is the best feeling.
Fun Philly punks from an invigorating garage with a brief, yet unforgettable sound.
Blood, Guts, And Pizza, huh? I see what you did there, Dolts! Anytime a band makes such a blatant reference to trash-punk legends the Dwarves, and especially to their 1990 magnum opus, Blood Guts And Pussy, I’m given certain expectations. On that LP, the Dwarves blasted through 12 songs in around 13 minutes, carving out a territory somewhere between the rawest garage rock, the rudest 82-style hardcore, and the crudest socially-unacceptable humor ever. Now I’m listening to The Dolts blast through 7 of their own songs in about 12 minutes, and I hear many of the same influences. So hey, that certainly fits. I’d say The Dolts hew more closely to the raw/fast paradigm that became a standard formula in the garage-punk revival of the ’90s than they do to the sheer hardcore speed of the Dwarves. This record is definitely not as full of fast tempos as I expected from the song lengths and overall packaging. However, I hear plenty of hardcore influence coming through here, especially from the more rock n’ roll influenced bands in that scene that have risen to prominence since the days of that Dwarves LP (think 9 Shocks Terror or Government Warning for an easy reference here). Lyrically, the fact that the album title’s most offensive word was the one The Dolts changed for this tribute gives you a clue — these guys aren’t quite as willing to be a socially unacceptable crew of anti-PC assholes. However, songs like “Fuck You” and “Pizza Stain Brain” still show an irreverent spirit at their core. The Dwarves may not be The Dolts’ only influence, but they’re obviously high on the list. That said, don’t worry — The Dolts are way more into providing a quick, fun slab of punk rock than they are into shocking you. This one may not be a good family-funtime soundtrack, but you won’t have to hide it from other people or anything.
Somewhere between Japan’s immortal Teengenerate and Montreal’s Ripcordz lies the sweet and greasy pizza-box tombstone of Philadelphia’s garage-punkers’ The Dolts and their 2013 LP slash EP, Blood, Guts, And Pizza. I’m on the (pizza) pie metaphor, so I should say that this release is only limited to seven slices of under eleven minutes’ worth of material, and that its thick crust is stretched thin (but chewy) for digestion. If we’re talking in digestible pieces; the mozzarella cheese on this particularly saucy pizza crust is gooey — cut fat, with a side of extra marinara, for dunking. It goes great with boys wrestling each other for laughs, stinky ‘bro farts, lots of pizza (of course), and getting drunk on Tecate and smoking or skating with your buds. It takes a lot of forethought to make something that sounds like simple punk into something so catchy and fun without being forgettable or unforgivable, but The Dolts’ create it with ease — the guitar work is fast and slick (“No Joke“), the bass a head-bobbing rumble (“Pizza Stain Brain“), along with tight rhythm and a scratchy vocal (“Time Travel“); this is superior garage-punk in all its glory. If SF’s Supercharger hadn’t had a slicker, more put-together sneering little brother with a heart of gold (The Rip-Offs), I might have even given these guys the mantle, but alas, they are no more. If you’re looking for more pizza, more time travel, more “Sludge,” more irreverent fun while driving fast — pop a copy of this ‘lil Damian in your tank for more fire!
Pizza is the great equalizer. There are many blogs (and even a great subreddit) dedicated to the creation and consumption of it. It is everyone’s favorite food — SNL just poked fun at this during a sketch this weekend. Last year’s Bachelorette contestant, indie rock dreamboat Wells, caused a scandal when he claimed to not like the world’s most perfect food on his questionnaire. I have even spent the last ten years eating pizza around the country and perfecting my own recipe (note: try grilled this summer). It’s also clearly on the minds of The Dolts, whose brash EP Blood, Guts, And Pizza, could make even the most cynical old lady want to dance around her bedroom to “New Band,” a catchy bit of punk that allows the band to taunt themselves and their status. “Fuck You” is just the same (perfect) phrase repeated over noisy, fast guitars, and pounding drums for 58 seconds. Cussing is one of my top hobbies (after eating pizza and complaining about the president), so this song brings me comfort and relief. And then there’s “Pizza Stain Brain,” which made me question their dedication to pizza: “No thanks / I’m really not hungry / I should go now.” You better have a damn good reason why you are turning that slice down. It’s probably a metaphor for something, but I’m having too much fun to figure out what it means.
Animated apathy. Meticulous Disregard. Humored chaos.
Clocking in at less than 11 minutes, Blood, Guts, And Pizza packs the chords, jagged screams, and swears in tightly – even by down and dirty punk rock standards. The ingredients for a release that fits right in with and highlights Bandcamp’s welcoming anything-and-everything entrance philosophy, are all here: wacky album cover, next to no album information, a contrastingly lengthy total discography, and the available option to download all the blood, guts and pizza you do or don’t want, for no dollars and no cents. This is definitely one of those DIY punk releases that seems to do better as a mood embodiment or mood enhancer, as opposed to something one might turn to “just to listen for listening’s sake.” Feeling pumped for punk show? This will get you ready. Need a few tracks to kick off a nice, intense run? Crank this batch up. Speaking objectively for a moment, while The Dolts have a rough and hoarse vocal style that aligns well with Bandcamp punk peers, The Pukes, and the reckless lyricism of Fidlar, the rest of the songs’ accompanying elements are less capable of becoming the same kind of memorable refrains or earworms – save for perhaps “F–k You (Nick Nitro On Vox),” whose title and main chorus line are one in the same – because what we’re given as backing “melodies” offer less singable clarity (as opposed to just sheer energy, dynamics, and emotion). Most of the lyrics are unintelligible if not being given a serious amount of undivided attention through a good set of speakers. Boasting a whole two minutes and 19 seconds, “Sludge” feels the slowest of all seven tracks – in length, title, and tempo. However, that really just goes to show the relativity of things when faced with a punk record such as this because none of these seven tracks feels like an incomplete thought. Each is ridiculously short but, to circle back to my opening statement: Blood, Guts, And Pizza packs the punch in with no fuss, no muss. (Okay, well, maybe a decent amount of muss.) Really, this is a record that, if anything, makes me want to explore The Dolts’ live offerings over their recorded pursuits because that’s what this release sounds like: a packed, loud, local, live punk show; some place where there’s lots going on and you can enjoy what’s played but everything is most definitely not perfect and odds are the band is going to play every song outrageously fast.
I’ve never been a big listener of punk or hardcore music, so anytime we venture into that realm with Off Your Radar I’m typically approaching it with some trepidation. Music that’s deliberately abrasive, even a little ugly is a pretty niche place that a listener usually has to want to venture into to find enjoyment. Consequently, my first listen of The Dolts’s Blood, Guts, And Pizza didn’t exactly convert me right away. But tonight, as I tried to prepare my thoughts and get some start-of-the-week chores done, I put the entire eleven minute album on repeat and listened to it over and over and over. And about the third play-through in, as I was folding some clothes and started to head-bang along to the relentless guitars and drums, I realized I needed to stop trying to think about what I wanted to say about it. This music isn’t for thinking. It’s for yelling, it’s for thrashing, it’s for jumping, growling, punching, kicking, screaming, feeling. Trying to intellectualize punk is antithetical to what punk is about. I actually found it reminded me a lot of minimalist classical music, with its simplistic rhythmic content and it’s penchant for extreme repetition lyrically. The Dolts take their violently simplistic ethos to its pinnacle on “Fuck You,” where they scream nothing but those two words for the song’s minute-long duration until it becomes a hypnotic mantra. I kept Blood, Guts, And Pizza on that loop for a while and let out all my frustrations from the week. It was a marvelous catharsis.
David Munro (@david_c_munro)
Idiosyncratic Avant-Garde Wanderer
Like a good joke, too much explanation or attempt at scholarly insight would just kill good, silly punk rock like what The Dolts deliver on Blood, Guts, And Pizza. So I won’t say too much, or wonder too long about how relevant the “loud fast rules” aesthetic was in 2013 or even today. The Dolts could care less, in any case, banging everything out with rock-solid conviction and no attempt to sweeten their sound. Shredded vocals, blistering guitars, pumping drums and bass that hits the right root note in every chord all get the job done with perfect panache. I will say that the almost subliminal jangle in the guitar on “No Joke” and the supremely well-constructed solo in “New Band” betray the fact that someone in the band (Dunhill Bungar, perhaps?) has technique to spare. They’re also very tight, with rock-solid rhythm and enough energy to power a squat in the Lower East Side. So it’s all good, doltish fun and as the guy who wrote “Asshole” in 1981, I tip my hat to them for writing “Fuck You,” which is even more reductive, something I wouldn’t have thought possible! Keep the faith, kids.
When I found punk and riot grrl in my early twenties, I was an angry woman. Driving back and forth between my job at Panera, the freelance photography job where drunken frat bros grabbed my ass while I took ridiculous photos of their drunken friends with their shirts off, and the campus where I took at least 5 classes a semester, I listened to anything even remotely labeled punk. Screaming women as angry as I was filled my headphones all day, poured out of my car windows in waves as thick and scorching as the heat off my leather seats. This week, sitting at the dented and cumbersome desk parked inside the locked doors and concrete walls of the facility where I teach English, I had a rare moment of pseudo privacy, the rare calm that comes with planning lessons without the kids around, when the ESL teacher stuck her head in the door, catching me by surprise. Realizing she was talking, that she didn’t see the little purple earbuds hiding under my hair, I pulled the cord out of the jack, letting The Dolts flood the room. “Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you,” poured out of the tinny computer speakers, throwing her off guard and leaving us both quiet for a moment before laughing. “So this is what you’re always listening to? Who would have known,” she smiled before moving into school business. I had to smile, too, because “Fuck You” is exactly the kind of mantra I would have ferociously adopted ten years ago. Listening to Blood, Guts, And Pizza would have been like taking speed, amping me up, forcing me to drive around and scream sing or jump around my living room furniture, not caring about my neighbors an almost touchable distance from my front porch. Punk, sure, with all the trappings you would expect — short song bursts, slurred yelled lyrics, irreverent and angry and bouncy, this album hit me this week in a particularly nostalgic place. As a younger woman, I would have announced this album, taking pleasure in the sideways eyes of old men hanging out their driver’s windows, moms with down-twisted mouths and eyes glancing down at their kids’ ears, hearing all that noise. Now, debatably more mellow and mature at 33, I can settle for smiling a little and singing “Fuck you” to myself while I plan out little assignments to help my students learn vocabulary.
Three different looks here that each somehow capturing the essence of The Dolts’ music.
Blood, Guts, And Pizza would have been a favorite of eleven-year-old me. It’s got all the prerequisites for adolescent interest: unstoppable aggression, gratuitous cursing, humor, and it’s loud. It’s loud like a sweaty punk club, which I’m sure is home for The Dolts. I probably don’t have to explain why “Fuck You” would have been so appealing to teenagers everywhere, so we’ll leave that one alone. I most gravitated to the partially downtempo “Sludge,” which brought back the feelings of when I first heard Silverchair (apologies to The Dolts if that’s perceived as a slight — it’s meant as a compliment). And then you can’t help but chuckle at the self-awareness of “New Band,” an anthem for all those bands suffering as the opening act. It’s one of those instances where the band perfectly articulates a sentiment that a lot of others are afraid to voice: “We’re gonna get drunk after the show, cause nobody cares where we go.” You can’t help but admire that type of honesty.
I was dragging on Saturday. Not much sleep the night before, sore shoulders from installing a ceiling fan with my father-in-law, a three-hour gig ahead of me… I needed some serious help. The Dolts to the rescue. I listened to Blood, Guts, And Pizza for the first time on the way to my band’s practice space before load out — thanks to the album’s short running time, I made it through almost whole thing — and lugging around amps and instruments was about 100% less insufferable with the elevated adrenaline that kicked in immediately after the start of “Pizza Stain Brain.” Those first few moments were like hot coffee poured directly onto my reptile brain. That said, as basal as my reaction was, and as raw as The Dolts sound on these seven songs, there’s something wonderfully refined about it: the mastering. The irony is that I might not have noticed how well these tracks flow into one another, were it not the case that listening to an album via Bandcamp on your phone in a Safari window means that you have to wake your phone back up each time a song ends. “Fuck You” ended, and when I finally got “Sludge” started, I heard the previous track fade out. It’s a little thing, having tracks run into one another, but for an album that thrives on momentum, it’s such a smart mastering move. I love that balance of chaos and attention to detail.
I love a good joke band. A friend of mine, an extremely talented young musician with a bright future ahead of him, is actually a member of a pseudo-lark band called Cornbread, whose genre is boldly advertised as “kitchencore.” Their songs, like “Tom Hanks Has Diabetes,” do little to satisfy my musical appetite, but they definitely make me chuckle and smile whenever I put them on. From first glance, The Dolts seem like they’d be a good joke band too. I mean, read the title of the record, glance at the album cover, or take a good look at this picture. It all screams goofy kids just messing around with instruments. And maybe they are just goofy kids messing around, but I’m here to tell you that just like the fifth track of Blood, Guts, And Pizza proudly and unintelligibly announces, The Dolts are no joke. That’s not to say there is some musical wizardry going on here — a lot of these songs really just display simplistic brilliance. “Fuck You” features a call and response chant of the title led by Nick Nitro of Anti Suburbians and sounds like it could easily slide into a mix of early Black Flag songs if it was given a grittier mix. “Sludge” seems like a literal representation of how punk and garage bands feel playing uneven bills with sludge metal groups. It’s rudimentary catharsis, a hallmark of countless great punk records and one The Dolts freely thrash around even when things break-free. Vocalist Eric Teofilak expertly swings between Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist and Darby Crash on the record, giving you a full sense of punk apathy and garage spirit in a single verse. The guitars come alive at perfect times, with surprising solos that call back to the moment you first put Tony Hawk Pro Skater in your Nintendo 64. Those balanced vocals and precision guitars come to a head on “New Band,” a song that has to be the most clever of the release and might just be the best song a new punk band could ever play when opening a show. Erasing indifference and disappointment with humors and middle fingers, it’s by far the most ambitious track on this brief record and as it falls right after “No Joke,” only cements the fact that the Dolts are absolutely no joke.
Ten by Break Of Reality
Chosen By Kira Grunenberg