Brisbane DIY luminaries Dollar Bar hit the mark, freqeuntly, with bursts of spasmodic guitar-pop on their third LP, writes DOUG WALLEN.
When a record is uneven, it’s usually considered a fault. But Dollar Bar wear unevenness as a badge of honour, cutting abruptly to new ideas in mid-thought and stitching together the work of three different songwriters and vocalists (Chris Yates, Patrick McCabe, and Dale Peachey). On their third LP, and only their second in the past decade, the Brisbane indie rock veterans rope in a wide swath of guests too, inviting friends to bash tambourines and sing along with them.
For an album full of short songs – many of them just a minute or two long – Hot Ones is a lot to take in. Not only are there 16 proper tunes, but also unrelated snippets of songs piggybacking on others (see the end of both ?I’m In Love With Being In Love? and ?Metal Friends?). Guided By Voices, and before them Wire, are the touchstone for this sort of channel-surfing brevity, and Dollar Bar pull it off better than most hopeful GBV disciples. They coax catchiness out of thin air and put songs to bed just as suddenly, playing up the contrast between brash and rickety while packing their lyrics with witty asides that reward repeat listens.
The longer, sturdier entries include ?Metal Friends?, a feedback-stabbed duet with Tamara Dawn Bell from [Hits](/releases/2001344), as well as the does-what-it-says-on-the-box ?2 High 2 Care? and the especially ?90s-damaged ?King of Valentines?. But it’s actually the shorter songs that leave the most lasting impression, even after the shock of their ambush has worn off. The primo power-pop throwback ?Legside? could have helped soundtrack Fast Times at Ridgemount High, and ?Drawbacks? (co-written by half the band plus Ben Salter and engineer Donovan Miller) could be the best song here, despite ending after 96 seconds. Complete with a Velocity Girl reference, ?Vale Celebrity X? has that dusty-attic vibe of GBV’s golden era (where pop songs felt like unearthed outsider art), while ?Pencil It In? evokes Lou Barlow’s spikey acoustic ballads and the Clean-esque ?Walking in Circles? follows guest Martin Walters? bleary keyboard stabs to a half-frenzied album finale.
Some songs go straighter down the line, like ?New Composition? and the title track, but the standout ?Australia Hates Me? cloaks its chiming hook and cheeky premise (?My country has lost all faith in me?) in the cascading fuzz of early Teenage Fanclub. Inspired by a [Canadian comedy duo](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WayneandShuster), ?Wayne & Shuster? clears out enough room for a quick guitar solo while reasserting the band’s ability to find a chorus in anything; why choose between ?Julie don’t go? or ?Rinse off the blood? when you can use both? Although its classic-rock flirtations make it stand out stylistically, the dankly effective ?I’m In Love With Being In Love? is undeniably Dollar Bar: earnest and self-aware, all at once.
On the opener ?The Impostors?, Peachey sings, ?Write songs, but don’t make ?em too long.? Set at the front of the album, it scans like Dollar Bar’s version of the Tom Petty credo ?Don’t bore us, get to the chorus.? And as you’d hope from a band who specialise in makeshift anthems, boredom is never an issue here.