Brody Dalle is a legend. Fronting LA punk band The Distillers got her noticed as the most credible female voice in alternative music since PJ Harvey. She had snarl, she had bite, she had a foot high mohican. Seminal bands unfortunately don’t last forever: the band combusted in 2005 due to interband fighting not long after the release of their third album Coral Fang. Dalle returned to the music scene in 2008 with the not punk rock Spinerette, released a good-but-not-Distillers good album and disappeared again. The snarl was still present but the bite was lacking. 2014 marks the re-return of that legend.
Firstly those expecting a return to the riotous sub-2 minute thrash punk ditties of The Distillers are going to leave disappointed. Diploid Love is an evolution of Spinerette’s danceable yet glossy alt rock. Most critics compare Dalle to Courtney Love. Both formerly rebel yelled across overdriven guitars while being female but this progression of sound is more akin that of Kathleen Hanna: from punk rock (Bikini Kill), to more electro territory (Le Tigre, Julie Ruin). Single ‘Don’t Mess With Me’ is reminiscent of something that Le Tigre could have released if Hanna had less of a squeak and more of a rasp. The track has a pounding dance beat, insistent guitar, and anthemic chorus: Dalle screaming “You’re the reason I can stay/And fight you to the death/’Cause where I stood, I will not give up”.
Whereas The Distillers and Spinerette were bands this is definitely a solo album with previously untouched Dalle influences being shown. Everything from the 808 drum machine to the delay effected chiming U2-esque guitar smacks of the 80s; reflections of Cyndi Lauper appear on ‘ballads’ ‘Carry On’ and ‘I Don’t Need Your Love’ and in fact the former has the same synth bass sound in the chorus as that of The Human League’s ‘Don’t You Want Me’. All this probably paints a picture where the former firebrand has lose her edge and this is very far from the truth. Overall the album has an aggressive sound in same mould of dance-punks Death From Above 1979 or possibly less dark pro-tooled Nine Inch Nails. It’ll be interesting to see how the sound of this album will be replicated live.
The indisputable highlight of the album is first single ‘Meet the Foetus/Oh The Joy’ which starts like the Drive soundtrack: a desolate electro hum stalking slowly before erupting into the last two minutes’ frenzy of pop punk pure joy ooo-oo-oos with guest vocals from Garbage’s Shirley Manson. The varied instrumentation should also be noted: horns, (‘Rat Race’) spanish guitar (‘Underworld’), piano loops (‘Carry On’) and on ‘I Don’t Need Your Love’ Dalle adopts an out-of-character falsetto throughout. The record is full of experimentation but only some of it is completely successful. Also the final two tracks are the most forgetful, making the record seem to outstay its welcome. Not everything is golden but the tracks that impress (‘Don’t Mess With Me’, ‘Carry On’ and ‘Meet the Foetus/Oh The Joy’) are some of the best in Dalle’s career. Hugely enjoyable.