41:36 min • Caroline International • April 28, 2014
Andrew Darley reviews
Brody Dalle has been a key figure in the rock music since the 1990s. Moving from her native Australia to Los Angeles when she was a teenager in order to find a path in music she soon found herself in the all-girl punk band Sourpuss. The band released two EPs but it was not long until she made her presence known and voice heard as the frontwoman of The Distillers. Her charisma and animal musicianship was magnetic. The band released their finest work, Coral Fang, in 2003. However, after a lengthy tour of the record and internal tensions growing, they parted ways and Brody went on to establish a new collective under the name Spinnerette in 2007, which released one album. Throughout all these incarnations, Dalle exhibited visceral songwriting, an extraordinary guttural vocal style and adrenaline-flooded performances. She is ready to return to the music world but this time she is armed with her first solo record, Diploid Love.
The album’s cover photo gives an arresting first impression. With white blonde hair, porcelain skin and rouge-red bow tie with matching lipstick, the cover draws a stark contrast to her signature grunge image and shock of black hair. In recent interviews about becoming a solo artist, Dalle opened up about the changes that have happened in her life since The Distillers. The most obvious difference is that she is now a mother of two and married to Queens of The Stone Age titan, Josh Homme, which she pinpoints has given her a new purpose and security in life. She has also talked about her battle with a long-standing postnatal depression and an addiction to crystal meth that she kept private during her time in The Distillers. It seems as though she has found a new perspective on herself and life which shines through on this record.
She storms in with ‘Rat Race’, damning her “own private road to hell” and vows to “burn this city down” which is quickly followed by the high-speed rampage of ‘Underworld’. These opening songs are pleasingly familiar yet they both feature horn sections, giving them an added punch, and on ‘Underworld’ a blissed-out Mariachi infusion. The album is jammed with surprises and musical U-turns which embrace her musical palette and side-steps away from her music to date. ‘Carry On’ is built on a disco bop of a drum machine and a sparse piano melody that reveals itself to be an inspiring torch song. On lead single and album highpoint ‘Meet The Foetus/Oh The Joy’, Brody brings in Garbage’s frontwoman Shirley Manson to feature on vocals. Together, they wield a song of two halves; the first being an eerie ode to the anxieties of bringing children into the world today, whilst the latter half comprises exhilarating celebratory all-girl chanting. The two singers go full force and it is unquestionably one of the most electrifyingly ecstatic pieces of music Dalle has ever written.
Still, it is not only different musical elements she has experimented with; the album unveils a vocal range that she has not shown on her records before. The album varies throughout with different tempos and moods showcasing diverse singing styles. Possibly the biggest surprise of Diploid Love is the piano ballad ‘I Don’t Need Your Love’. Written about her father, who left their family when Brody was young, she sings out of a saccharine high register that sounds gorgeously ethereal. It is jarring to imagine that this voice is coming from the same woman who growled and gritted over the likes of ‘Drain The Blood’ or ‘The Hunger’. With its string sections and an added recording of her children playing in the bath, it seems as though she is opening up, unafraid of showing her softer side and being more personal with her music. Although the song details the hurt of her absent father, it also asserts the happiness she has found. These songs surge with determination and raw passion as well as an underlying brightness and optimism.
Diploid Love is quite a marvel and a creative jump for the punk singer. It assuredly departs from her music to date in favour of a blend of influences that reflect a new stage in her career and life. Listeners may have pigeonholed Dalle based on her time in The Distillers, with an expectation that her solo music would tap into the vein of Sing Sing Death House or Coral Fang. This album goes beyond that and showcases other facets of her artistry. Her life experience over the past decade has inferred a new outlook and freedom in her music. She’s journeyed and come to terms with her “own private road to hell” and brought back the songs to show for it. It’s an album about choosing to step into the light, in spite of the past and darker times. She epitomizes her new way of seeing when on the penultimate song ‘Blood In Gutters’ when she urges “Find your weakness, go on and kill it”. This is a wonderful solo debut from a musician who is willing to grow and try elements that she never has before.