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Rock Music Ain't What It Used To Be - Except Maybe For This

02/21/2014 05:56 EST | Updated 04/23/2014 05:59 EDT

Let's face it; rock music isn't doing so well. Between EDM, Taylor Swift, and NIN/Queens of The Stone Age being cut off at the Grammys, rock has struggled to find its modern voice. It makes my skin hurt to think I don't like one full rock album released by a major label right now. Worse is the idea that I am that anachronistic snob longing for music from the '90s and early 2000s. I have become that person.

I remember the exact moment rock music died (for me): November 14, 2004. The Distillers, fronted by Brody Dalle, were on the bill for Holiday Havoc festival in Los Angeles, California. I was in Los Angeles that day, but I was obligated to attend the American Music Awards -they were the reason why I was in Los Angeles after all, so I missed Holiday Havoc, and instead watched Anna Nicole Smith slur "Do you like muh boddd--ehhhyyy?" at a teleprompter. I've since regretted that decision. November 14, 2004, was the last time The Distillers ever performed live. They were my favorite band.

In 2009, Dalle fronted a new act called Spinnerette and toured. The album was well written. The material was good. But the passion? Not the same. It was strained. Everyone felt the awkward disconnect between The Distillers and what was now Spinnerette.

Fast-forward to February 2014. Dalle had recorded a solo album and was performing live at Alex's Bar in Long Beach, California for the first time in 5 years. I bought tickets with no expectations. I heard the new single, "Meet The Foetus," featuring Shirley Manson (front-woman of Garbage), but I was afraid to like it. It had been a long time since I rock and rolled.

It's the night of the gig and we walk to the venue. The crowd standing in line outside hears Brody Dalle sound-check Distillers songs. Could it be? After 10 years? Dalle's partner-in-crime, Tony Bevilacqua (ex-The Distillers) in tow?

With feedback and the first swift chugs of Die On A Rope, Dalle spits "[w]ishing you didn't love me no more / I've been dead for years" and the room implodes. By Dismantle Me the crowd is screaming lyrics in a collective voice. There is (attempted) crowd surfing. Mic stands fly. For one hour I'm transported to that gig I missed at Holiday Havoc on November 14, 2004.

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Photo Credit: Diane Lee @dianedarling


Some people you just need to experience live. Dalle is one of them. She sends reverberations through a room. The electric and (un)subtle qualities of her voice are difficult to capture on record. She'll cut the tongue from your head one moment and rock you to sleep the next.

The new songs blend seamlessly with the old but delivered with a cool, relaxed confidence. Rat Race, Dressed in Dreams, and Blood in Gutters are standouts, with Dalle's signature anthemic choruses and dynamic vocals. The songs rise, they swell; they arch their back. They just feel good, with hollow drum hits, shoegazey Jazzmaster / Mustang laden guitar tones, and the low drone of erratic basslines. Underworld takes the distortion and dissonance of Death Sex to a catchy consonance, then back into the void again.

The new album, Diploid Love, will be released on April 28, 2014.

Brody's back, and she's brought with her a little piece of that thing that saved Jenny's life and probably mine: Rock & Roll.

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