Dollar Signs - Yikes (Cover Artwork)

Dollar Signs

Yikes (2015)


The guys in Dollar Signs love pizza. Not a unique trait, to be sure, but certainly an admirable one nonetheless. This works out well since pizza can be a fine metaphor for music. You see, pizza and punk are very similar. They’re both deceptively simple, any asshole can make pizza and any asshole can make punk music. But somewhere along the line, most people who attempt either manage to fuck it up. Most of it comes out average, some of it turns out to be terrible, and sometimes, with a little luck and the right ingredients, it can turn out great*. Dollar Signs have made a damn good music pizza with Yikes!, somthing not often found in North Carolina.

Yikes starts out with a bit of a cathartic diatribe. And when listening to the first moments of opening track “The End”, one would be easily forgiven for thinking that this album might just be a stream of consciousness clusterfuck. And in many ways it is, but you can hear just how much work was put into the song to make it sound so effortless, and this is a microcosm of the entire album. From there things go up and down a bit, both energy and quality-wise. By the time you get to the fifth track, “Holiday Inn,” you might think you know all the tricks the band have up their sleeve for this record, but you’d be wrong.

The back end of the record is where things truly starts to shine. Starting with “Reinventing Dollar Signs,” a song that’s probably more of a mission statement than it was intended to be (and features the vocal talents of the man himself, Jeff Rosenstock, and fellow BTMIer John DeDomenici), this where the best ideas start to come to the surface and the band really differentiates themselves from their contemporaries. “Brutal Daniel,” an obvious inside joke of a song, notwithstanding, six of the last seven songs contain at least kernels of great ideas that show just how much potential Dollar Signs have. The brilliantly bitter last minute of “Surf’s Up (California)” into the genuinely moving and introspective “An OK Interlude” are just preludes to the superb last quarter or the record. Apparently a lot of work went into the song placement and it seems to me that it was meant to build up a catharsis that would be released with the wonderful crescendo of “I Fucked It Up,” “Try Hard,” and “The End 2.”

There’s only one complaint I have with the album. You can just tell the band is holding themselves back. I’ve heard that this was a conscious decision, that they didn’t want to just be “weird” for an entire album. And frankly, that’s a shame, because Dollar Signs absolutely shine when they’re just giving no fucks and throwing shit at the wall. Especially because nearly all of those weird ideas stick. I’d say that “Punks In Paris,” is the weakest track on the album, and it’s no coincidence that it’s also the most straightforward. By no means a bad song (and great lyrically) but just when it seems they’re about to really break through and release the energy that’s been building and building up, the song just loops back on itself. There’s a fine line between restraint and missing an opportunity. And it feels like there were a few missed opportunities.

That probably sounds harsher than I mean it to though, because honestly, Yikes really is a damn good album. Dollar Sings have written their best songs yet, but you can tell that they’ll only get better from here. A party album of sorts that actually has something to say, albeit it in a down to Earth, almost conversational way. It’s brimming with a sly intelligence and a self-awareness that many bands try so hard to achieve but can’t seem to pull off. “Try Hard,” the closest thing the record has to a single, is the perfect amalgamation of these qualities. If you can listen to it and not see some of your faults in its message of being honest with yourself and fear of rejection, well, you’re probably farther up your own ass than once thought physically possible. And that really can be said of the whole album. It’ll get you bouncing along, to be sure, but it’ll also make you wonder why we constantly try to cover up our feelings about the world, from important issues to mundane situations. And that’s something pizza can’t do. Unless it’s laced with LSD or something. Don’t do pizza drugs. Do check out Yikes, sprinkle some crushed red pepper on that shit. You’ll love it.