Album Reviews

Brody Dalle – Diploid Love

on May 02, 2014, 12:00am
Brody-Dalle-Diploid-Love C
Release Date
April 29, 2014
Caroline International
digital, vinyl, cd

Brody Dalle was once seen as a punk rock pioneer for her work with The Distillers, breathing blistering screams and vivid lyricism over hooks that demeaned romantic manipulation and serving up seductively sharpened guillotine blades to intimidate. She was compared to crazed frontwomen, like Karen O, and embodied the template of the genre, from her dark wardrobe to ear-ringing guitar hooks, making music that was contagious, exhilarating, and dirty. Her identity as a strong woman was something worth bleeding for (as evidenced by the cover of 2003′s Coral Fang, featuring a crucified woman), her boundless energy pushed to the point of vocal cord destruction.

Since then, Dalle’s voice has scabbed, healed, and developed, showing not only a more mature musician, but more importantly, a happier person, wife, and mother. It makes sense, then, that Diploid Love, Dalle’s return after a five-year hiatus, doesn’t just soundtrack her marriage to Josh Homme, but also a love for herself. Before the release of Dalle’s most acclaimed album, Coral Fang, drug addiction and abusive relationships sunk her into a deep depression, crashing her musical performance and sanity. Her recovery has resurrected some of these memories, which both positively and negatively influence the album. Dalle knows how far she’s come but doesn’t want to accept all the credit. There are things that need forgetting, too.

Her best strokes balance the chemical reactions of inventive imagery and dark secrets that come back to haunt her. But it’s nothing that she can’t defeat. The instrumental performance, assisted at different points by members of The Strokes, Queens of the Stone Age, Warpaint, and others, incorporates a few new tricks into her electric intensity to make things interesting, as on the mariachi guitar conclusion of “Underworld”. Dalle shines brightest through her poetic hand, as on “Blood in Gutters”: “Killing us slow, chemical wrath/ So suffer the madness, cling to the birth/ Of a new era, to hell with our worth.” Her vocals are relentless here, drawing near-exclusive focus, the rocker’s recovery seeming deceptively easy.

A return to Dalle’s punk roots provides the most rewarding takeaway from Diploid Love, especially when it’s backed by a legend like Garbage’s Shirley Manson. In a nontraditional turn, though, Dalle’s dedication is to motherhood. Dalle and Manson’s collaboration on “Meet the Foetus/Oh the Joy” engraves this mission directly on their hearts, shouting, “They’ll never tear my love apart/ Because you live inside my heart.” She continues this with metaphors of “crowning endlessly” on “Underworld”, taking her mission to a new level, hoping to give birth to a whole new world of rock and roll.

In an interview with NME, Dalle discussed both the challenges of writing while caring for a two-year-old and how her songwriting has changed: “In The Distillers, I feel like I didn’t have anything to say, so I concentrated on political, social issues. These days, it’s more personal?” Her sentence ends with uncertainty, and Diploid Love shows that same waiver in its straightforward rock tracks. She often settles for generics when lamenting “the loneliest places” on the falsetto-heavy “I Don’t Need Your Love”, or “[making] it all real” on “Dressed in Dreams”. That lack of momentum makes her sound like she has something to prove. Dalle has never had to say, “Don’t mess with me” before; the sneer would say it for her.

Dalle’s music with The Distillers looked ahead for specific change and victory. As evidenced by “Carry On”, Diploid Love wants to forget the struggles: “I am ready to be free from the past and move on.” Many musicians seek renewal through spelling out their struggles with an imaginative pen. Dalle’s return performance, no matter how energetic and strong musically, lacks the lyrical details to latch onto. Handling one’s demons can bring back nightmares beyond comprehension, but it’s always for the better. Refusal can limit recovery — and sometimes creativity.

Essential Tracks: “Underworld”, “Blood in Gutters”


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May 19, 2014 at 7:40 pm

After being disappointed with Spinnerette, I can say this outing is definitely deserving of B+ at minimum, and find this review to focus unduly on rather trivial things.

Also, the reviewer responding to comments? Cheesy as f*ck.

May 8, 2014 at 8:49 am

I have been listening to Brody since 2000. This album is a departure, but I see the punk roots of her previous work with the distillers, all over this album. B+. I love punk music. I always will, and have for over 19 years. This album was surprising, and well worth the money.

May 5, 2014 at 9:33 am

Completely disagree with the review. The album is R&R charged and after several listens, it consistently keeps you hooked. I hear a lot of Joan Jett in this record. It absolutely does not deserve a C ranking.

May 4, 2014 at 5:20 am

Ah such a good review. I too am split with this record. Her explanation of dont mess with me made the song sit easier as a ballad for kids suffering at the hand of bullies, but otherwise for a clearly talented lyricist it came off as a little too unimaginative and even blatant for lack of a better word.

I also wish she’d taken on a full time producer, a few things here and there could probably have polished it up a little more cohesively I think anyway.

Sam Willett
May 4, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Thanks for the compliment, Lucy! Yeah, having a full-time producer work on this record would have been interesting! Hopefully it’s something she can consider in the future.

May 2, 2014 at 12:44 pm

Once again CoS is deterring people away from an incredible album that absolutely deserves something better than a C rating. Seriously a C? There comes a time in most people’s lives that were heavily influenced by the ‘punk’ culture when you simply want to let go of the angst and try something inspirational and different. This album is exactly that while still maintaining what makes her such a brilliant musician. Diploid Love is originality at its finest!

Sam Willett
May 3, 2014 at 11:01 am

Hey, Jas! Thank for checking this out and sharing your thoughts. Like said in the review, Brody’s performance is pretty impressive here, but it didn’t come without some uncomfortable changes, especially her lyricism. With her past work, she was consistently imaginative and daring, but on Diploid Love, I felt like that mode of writing was absent. I miss that, and it may affect how the album is remembered in the future.

If people are looking to hear a different side of Brody Dalle, this is a great listen. The inconsistencies, on the other hand, inspired the assigned letter grade.

May 2, 2014 at 9:09 am

This album was far superior to either of Courtney Love’s two garbage singles. Can’t wait to hear your BS review and A+ for her pile of trash album.

Sam Willett
May 3, 2014 at 11:09 am

Hey, Anon! Thanks for reading. Both of Brody and Courtney are doing cool things, without a doubt. Courtney could drop something awesome or not-so-awesome, but it’s impossible to know now. Keep spinning this until we hear more details!


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