Doleful Lions came out of nowhere last year with one of the finest debut albums of the year. The North Carolina band was as much a surprise for their mix of influences as much as their relative obscurity—classic jangle pop ala the dB’s infused with a most-unlikely spot of Krautrock. Hell, “The Sound of Cologne” off Motel Swim sang the praises of Neu! and the Beach Boys. You’ve gotta love a band with such impeccable influences and such an eclectic spirit.
The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! is the follow-up to that great debut. While the sound is a bit heavier and fuller and the subject matter both more serious and eccentric, it is every bit as good as its predecessor, while never content to stay pat and rest on the laurels of the earlier record. More than capable of penning an absolutely stunning, plaintive, slow song, Rats Are Coming gives us “Sweet Driller Killer,” a clever twist of irony given that the song is about a serial killer.
Like the Beautiful South, Doleful Lions gleefully subvert pop stereotypes by wedding biting lyrics and un-poplike subjects to perfect melodies. But while Doleful Lions’ lyrics may not be as viciously funny as Paul Heaton’s (Beautiful South singer and lyricist), Doleful Lions is far more musically adventurous. There’s the aforementioned Krautrock influence, in addition to song structures that twist the pop norm and a really broad palette of sounds, ranging from moments of stark acoustic simplicity to all-out, virtually-orchestral complexity. - Pop Matters
The Doleful Lions' 1998 debut, Motel Swim, was a fairly standard jangly guitar indie pop record, with little standing out other than the brilliant opening track, a tribute to the joys of Krautrock called "The Sound of Cologne." That song suggested that Doleful Lions leader Jonathan Scott had concerns beyond that of the average indie band, an idea brought to fruition by 1999's The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! Darker in tone and much more interesting than its predecessor, this album inhabits a subterranean world of obsessions, most notably an obsession with the sort of movies most often covered in Michael Weldon's Psychotronic magazine. Songs like "Driller Killer" and "Destroy All Monsters," as well as the title track, take their names from obscure cult horror films, and that type of imagery creeps into almost all of the songs. The nervous-sounding title track builds through an increasing sense of dread and strangeness before it explodes into an oddly hopeful and spirited chorus of the title phrase repeated endlessly for the rest of the song. (The fact that Scott can not only built a chorus around that title, but have it be the most instantly memorable and melodic moment on the entire album, is proof of a certain type of songwriting genius.) Other tracks stretch far beyond the three-minute standard, with the swirling instrumental "Sweet Driller Killer" (a reference to the Velvet Underground's live improvisation "Sweet Sister Ray"?) stretching languorously out for over seven. The Doleful Lions really found their voice with this album, a huge improvement over their largely pedestrian debut. - Stewart Mason All Music Guide
"The Doleful Lions have elevated themselves into the leader category when it comes to taking their music in a new direction….TRAC!TWAH! is considerably longer, explores darker themes and fuzzier sounds, and exhibits impressive artistic growth and maturity" Eric Sorensen (Amplifier)
"Scoring with the lion's share of tracks on this album pop fans will have nothing to complain about, finding hints of everything making pop so fun on this record…From the sweetly thin voice of Jonathan Scott to the band's trumped up sparkling guitars popping up on this record, the Doleful Lions exhibit one of the finest understandings of everything pop since pop's fall from grace earlier this decade." Aversion.com