Beat on the Street: Brody Dalle Will Never Be Uncool.

Let’s be clear and honest right from the start: Brody Dalle is a badass woman.

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Brody Dalle is the frontwoman of Spinnerette, and she was clearly the only thing the kids came to see at their recent Bowery Ballroom gig.  Tall, dark and brooding, with a gravelly howl that could shatter concrete, Ms. Dalle is best known for her work as the frontwoman for self-destructive punk saviours The Distillers.

When I first saw the Distillers open for Garbage and No Doubt in 2002, Ms. Dalle (then Mrs. Armstrong, as she was married to punk rock prince Tim Armstrong of Rancid) had no trouble holding her own against legendary frontwomen Shirley Manson and Gwen Stefani.  With her soul-scraping voice and more-than-admirable guitar skills, Brody was a commanding presence in any size room, and her particular brand of stripped-down, no-bullshit punk was tailor made for misunderstood teenagers.

The song “The Young Crazed Peeling” described Brody’s difficult adolescence, culminating in a happy marriage and stable-enough adulthood.  When she sang “I love a man from California / He’s the prettiest thing, we got the same disorder,” she seemed to promise similar things to the legions of tattooed-and-pierced weirdos out there.

The Distillers were a truly special band, and every record they made was better than their last.  With every passing day, they seemed to inch closer and closer to actually saving punk rock – and then things got weird.

hommedalleBrody left Tim Armstrong, and suddenly she was pictured in Rolling Stone making out with giant ginger Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age.  The Distillers’ next album Coral Fang’s cover art featured a naked woman with a blood-spurting razor for a head, and the songs were titled things like “Drain the Blood,” “Beat Your Heart Out” and “The Gallow is God.” It was an overproduced hot mess of amazing songwriting and terrible/awesome conflicting emotions.  The band took off for a series of whirlwind tours – their July 2003 gig at New York’s CBGB remains one of my favourite concert memories of all time – and then the band simply ceased to exist.  Loyal fans of Brody and the Distillers were left wondering what the hell happened to one of the most promising new bands of the last decade. Brody and Josh got married, had a baby, moved on.  I did not.

See, here’s the thing.  I want to love Brody Dalle, and I mean, I DO love Brody Dalle – but something’s missing.  Spinnerette are OK, and I have no real problems with them, but their debut record isn’t GREAT.  Save for the catchy, bottom-heavy “Ghetto Love,” the album has very few stand-outs, and one can’t help but feel short-changed.  Part of me wonders if I’d judge this music differently if Brody didn’t come with so much backstory baggage, and I can’t help but be annoyed that any female rock star’s career could be defined so strangely by the men she’s slept with (paging Courtney Love).  Like Courtney, Brody’s new direction seems directly influenced by the man in her life – Spinnerette’s swaggering stoner rock is notably more mature than the Distillers’ barely-contained rage, certainly borrowing something from Queens of the Stone Age.  The melodies are more accessible and lend themselves to sing-alongs – which the kids did dutifully, though I suspect Brody could’ve sung the phone book and they’d respond in kind.

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The crowd was mixed, with startlingly few of the mohawked, lip-ringed proto-Brodys I remembered from Distillers shows past.  Maybe we’ve all grown up and changed since then…?   [A vicious, hair-pulling girlfight that broke out in the pit and subsequently ended in a passionate makeout reminded me that we have not.]  Brody was subdued, in a black tank top and jeans – less abrasive than we all remembered, and certainly very different on stage.  She rarely played guitar, relying instead on the anonymous black-clad dudes in the background, and although her voice was strong, the songs were less than memorable.  If I take a step back and look at this show as if I’d never heard of Brody Dalle, never seen a Distillers show or witnessed Josh Homme’s giant tongue covering half of her makeup-smeared face, then I think I’d still find the material lacking – but Brody’s voice enormously appealing.  Certainly this is not the best she could do.

To be fair, nobody should begrudge Ms. Dalle a stable relationship or a new direction – we all like her happy, healthy and creatively inspired – but uh, we also liked her when she was kind of a lunatic. Having seen the enormous potential of the Distillers, it’s hard not to feel let down by Spinnerette.  Here’s hoping Brody can find a way for her new band to tap into that previous energy, because there are not enough heroes in rock’n’roll.

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Stef Schwartz is the Music Editor at Autostraddle.com. She's a rock'n'roll jack-of-all-trades, vegan crusader and legit professional weirdo. She lives with her cat Scully in the wilds of Los Angeles, where she writes terrible dance music, drinks quality bourbon and misses New York City. Follow her on twitter.

Stef has written 96 articles for us.

14 Comments

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    When Brody was asked what genre she would describe Spinnerette as, she said “chinese rock,folk doom,gaelic disco” which is something only Brody Dalle could get away with saying, without sounding protentious. Hence ‘Brody Dalle Will Never Be Uncool’. What I’m attempting to say, is that Brody is still the same person despite her music changing. Surely, to keep everything the same throughout your life would be boring?Like you said “Maybe we’ve all grown up and changed since then…?” Clearly Brody has too, as has her music. And for me to say Spinnerette are amazing live would be an understatement. Whatever floats y’r boat though ey.

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      i’m willing to agree to disagree… and i would venture to guess brody was joking when she made that description. brody is still awesome, but i know she has the potential to write much better music, and i’m sort of mad at her for not having done so. that’s all.

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    “A vicious, hair-pulling girlfight that broke out in the pit and subsequently ended in a passionate makeout reminded me that we have not.”

    Hilarious. Can’t say I ever listened to the Distillers, and I only know a couple QOTSA songs but I liked reading your article.

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    This is awesome Stef. Have you heard any Sourpuss songs? That was Brodie’s all-female Australian band, before the Distillers. I’m too young to remember them, but I’ve heard their stuff and it’s something special.

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    Hmm… maybe I’m the one crazy person on this site, but I really loved the Spinnerette debut, maybe because it’s a sound I’m feeling and responded too. I don’t want more angry punk rock, as amazing as it was, from Brody anymore. I’ve always thought that anything the Distillers pumped out was 1000 times better than anything Rancid could do, and although I do hear the QOTSA influence in Spinnerette, I don’t hear a HEAVY influence (except on the track Rebellious Palpitations)… An influence is there, yeah, but I think that that just comes from being with that person, listening to the same records, watching the same movies, reading the same books – generally drawing inspiration from the same places because you’re around and influenced by the same things. “Cupid” is amazingly dark and haunted, and her lower register really shines. (I also love the ending “Du-Dum-Dum – Done.”)”Geeking” and “Driving Song” have a great, light vibe which I’ve never heard from Brody, and now am glad I did. “Impaler” is so oddly perfect and I keep on thinking it should be on the soundtrack to True Blood or something, with it’s gothic western vibe. “Prescription for Mankind” – amazing band jam and “Sex Bomb”, well, I sing that to my boyfriend all the time. :) Also, imagining Josh Homme as my ‘daddy’ is possibly the sexiest thought ever. ANYWAY, I loved the Distillers, seen them twice, even met them once (the two guys who left the band, Andy and ?, were really HUGE assholes to me though) and Tony signed my Coral Fang album cover, right on the nipple (glad Brody is working with Tony still) but that being said, I really welcomed the change and genuinely enjoyed Spinnerette, when I heard the album and when I saw them live. Brody has always had great presence, but I never remember her being this wild woman on stage. With the Distillers, she mainly stood behind the mic, guitar strapped to her, lost in the own world…and I saw the same thing when I saw Spinnerette live. The only big difference I found was less thrashing from the crowd, which would have been enjoyable… wow okay, I’m done. Du-Dum-Dum, Du-Dum-Dum, Done. Something like that lol

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    I agree with Ric.

    Ok, I had the same thought about women sounding just like their man, I don’t like it (put this way) either, but let’s face it :
    1) By assuming that she hasn’t a musical personality of her own, we are being very unfair to her and we know it.
    2) There’s nothing wrong with a little Josh Homme influence, since he is actually one of the most prolific, talented, and unique rock musician of the moment. QOTSA is Great.
    So let’s say she’s been receptive to the same influences, some vibe that is around right now and well impersonated by QOTSA in their very unique way, and, somehow differently, by Spinerette. But with Brody’s charisma, voice, sense of rock’n’roll, well, it’s safe to say TALENT. We should all agree on that.

    Plus on a more “girlish-ly” kinda note, I must admitt they’re one hot couple, some of my favourite people in music, or among celebs, along with some people they work(ed) with (Dave Grohl, Dave Navarro, Jack Irons and more…).
    Josh is tooodally hot, yeah!, surprising for a redhead huh ? But when I saw him live with QOTSA, I realised he’s got class. Plenty of it.

    PS : Ooops this is girl-on-girl scene… :D
    My point is : I’m in love with Brody, just like the rest of you.

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