Distillers singer returns with first album in six years

In 2003, when The Distillers released their first and what would turn out to be their last major label release, “Coral Fang,” Rolling Stone’s Jenny Eliscu wrote, “If Nirvana had been led by a chick singer, ‘Bleach’ might have sounded like The Distillers’ ‘Coral Fang’.” It was high praise that the band absolutely deserved. Nearly every song on that album is perfect pop punk – not only ferocious, but unrelentingly catchy, with Brody Dalle (at that time Brody Armstrong, since she was still married to Rancid’s Tim Armstrong) spitting lyrics about blood and murder over charged guitars and pummeling drums. And even after more than a decade, it still hasn’t lost any of its charm.

Despite its artistic success, the album never really broke into the mainstream, stopping at No. 97 of the Top 100 albums. And by the time it was released, the band was already in shambles, with Dalle being the last original member and basically carrying the whole thing on her shoulders. In an interview in 2009, she told RS, “We all just grew out of it. We had gotten into some really unhealthy habits on the road that we brought home and kind of isolated us from each other.” The group stayed in limbo until 2005, the same year that Dalle officially announced the breakup of the band and became pregnant for the first time.

Family life with Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme took precedent until Dalle eventually released music with her new band, Spinarette, in 2009. While this album was a pretty strong release, fans missed the sneer of the old Dalle and her more punkish inclinations. This project turned out to be a one-off release, and Dalle stayed in the background again for the next five years, finally coming out again with her first solo album, “Diploid Love,” this year.

The new record tries to have it both ways, featuring songs that call to mind The Distillers’ old energy, including “Underworld” and “Blood in Gutters,” and ballads that show off Dalle’s more settled state of mind, “Carry On” and “I Don’t Need Your Love,” and it succeeds to a certain extent. “Blood in Gutters,” the best track on the album, has a chorus that’s the most Distillers-like moment Dalle has created since the band’s demise. When she screams, “Find a weakness/ And kill it,” pushing her voice to edge, fans of the long-defunct band will rejoice.

But even some of the slower stuff shows off a depth that Dalle has only flirted with before. “I Don’t Need Your Love” proves that she can do more than shout, as she sings her way through the classic rock breakup song. It’s the kind of singing that drives classically trained musicians nuts – one note all the way – but it’s pretty and it works.

The main problem with the album is that the rockers, while lively, don’t have the same success rate of the old Distillers material; there’s usually one or two things that make them work, whereas Dalle’s songs, at their best, link from great hook to great hook effortlessly until they explode into brain-rattling choruses.

But overall, it’s enjoyable and I’m sure fans will eat it up. Even with her extended breaks and lack of output, she’s still nurtured a cult of personality comparable to the Dresden Dolls’ Amanda Palmer or Social Distortion’s Mike Ness. And her goth sensibility and punk attitude should win her many admirers for years to come.

3 stars out of 5.

Music Review:?Music Review: ‘Diploid Love’ by Brody Dalle