Review: Spinnerette

First and foremost, I would like to say that I’m a massive fan of Brody Dalle and I’ve listened to every project of hers that I’m aware of. Much like my previous review of Light and Magic I’m reviewing an album that I know and like well, so if you’re looking for a biased and objective review you’ve come to the wrong place. If that’s what you’re after you may as well be attending a debate about vegetarianism sponsored by and held in a KFC. I’m sure the scholars among you have already clicked off and returned to Pornhub in the ever-ready incognito window. They and their leather-elbow patched tweed suit jackets shall not be missed.

Spinnerette was Dalle’s first major project after the break-up of The Distillers and in my opinion the best thing she’s ever done. This was the first time that we met the Post-Distillers Dalle that we know today. There was a noticeable departure from the distinct vocal style from her former band where she had been known as the girl who could scream.  The screamiest song on the album was in fact the lead single “ Ghetto love” which could be described as a gateway song to bridge the gap between fans of the Distillers the new sleek, sexy and modern Spinnerette. I recall a big deal being made of this at the time, some people dug it and an awful lot of people didn’t.

 “ She’s not screaming enough! Why isn’t she screaming anymore? It’s not punk! I want it to be 2004 forever!” They would proclaim before breaking down into big salty tears and sobbing inconsolably into their vans wristbands. Yes, It’s not really a punk album. It’s an alternative rock album with elements of punk, electronica and shoegaze. Dalle’s decision to employ a more melodic vocal style for the majority of the album could have been for various reasons: she might have been bored with screaming since the start of her career and wanted to try something different, she might have lost the ability to scream her way through a 15 song album and do it justice live after screaming her way through all the Distiller’s records, or maybe, just maybe it was an artistic choice based on the fact that she had matured as an artist and the contemporary music scene had also moved on from mindless screaming and fuck you mom bedroom door slam rock.

Whatever the case, the album was a huge departure from what she had become known for and the results were sublime. Particular highlights from album include the delicious “ Sex Bomb “ which is thankfully not a cover of the tacky Tom Jones tune that resurrected his career. If you’ve never heard it then do yourself a favour and keep it that way, it’s not worth it man. Dalle’s song however is an effortlessly sexy tune which is told from a relatively unheard perspective: a woman who wants to be dominated sexually. Obviously, it goes almost without saying that any song about this topic has the potential to be problematic but this track is refreshingly crude and direct. It makes no bones about its subject matter ( much like Dalle herself, who has mentioned in interviews that she loves being “ Squashed” and the sexual act being the only time where you don’t want to feel like you’re in control) and I think it makes a major difference that it was actually written by and sung by a woman. The song is far from Sado-machoistic and stands out from other songs of a sexual nature by not being overly poetic or vague to shy away from the crudeness.

Perhaps the most evident example of the shift in style between The Distillers and Spinnerette is Baptized by Fire which is possibly my favourite track on the album. Dalle sings beautifully on an empowering almost dance pop track where guitars are certainly secondary. It’s a very melodic tune and definitely earned the ire of any punk purists who happened to be listening. Geeking is a very interesting song and seems to belong to a genre all of its own. It’s not quite rock, it’s not quite pop, it’s just quirky and fun in a non-cheesy kind of way.

A strange omission that was included on the Ghetto Love EP that preceded the album was apparent fan favourite “ Bury My Heart”. I’ve seen more covers of this song than any other from this period of Dalle’s career and I must say I’m quite fond it. Exactly why it wasn’t included on the album remains a mystery.

One of the most interesting and controversial reactions to this album is the long-speculated conspiracy theory that Dalle can’t really write music on her own and Josh Homme wrote/produced everything on the album. This theory that Brody can’t write songs because she’s a girl and stuff had been doing the rounds since she was married to Tim Armstrong and he of course had been writing all her material. Personally, I don’t buy this theory, it all seems a little too convenient. I knew many people who were adamant at the time that this was just a Queens of the Stone Age album that Brody was singing on. I can’t actually imagine this ever being a QOTSA album and if it was it would be the weirdest album they ever made and that’s saying something. The insistence on this theory was addressed by Dalle herself who remarked that no one ever accused her of writing Homme or Armstrong’s material. Wonder why? Even though I don’t subscribe to the theory, I find it more plausible that Armstrong was involved in writing on the first two Distillers albums and the rapid increase in quality that was Coral Fang is explained by her divorcing him and doing it all by herself.

There are one or two issues that I have with this album despite my lopsided reviewing skills. I am confused about why on earth Brody decided to form another band in the first place. At the time she was a reasonable name in the music industry and could have carried a solo record without the need create the entity of a new band. Tony Bevilacqua could be one reason for this, as maybe it seemed unfair for him to go from one fourth of The Distillers to the guitarist in Brody’s backing band. Alain Johannes and Jack Irons are obviously fabulous musicians and their reputations precede them, but they were obviously never likely to stick around and be in Spinerette full-time or even appear on another album if it had ever materialized. Divorcing herself from the notoriety that she already had before that point to form a new band has always seemed like a strange move to me.

The main issue I have with the album is however that we never got a second one. Dalle has characterized her time in Spinnerette as unhappy, particularly after the record dropped and she went out to tour it. She had changed her image significantly since The Distillers and yes, gained weight because she was popping out babies with Josh Homme ( who was definitely not writing all her songs). This affected her self-esteem to the point in which it culminated in her overhearing a fan in the audience remark: “ Oh my God, she’s so fat!” apparently this levelled her which I find somewhat surprising as I recall a few friends of mine saying that they found her quite hot with a bit of weight on her and they even preferred her then to how she looked in her Distillers days. The word milf may have been used. Either way, Dalle under-toured and under-promoted the album by her own admission which had a lot to do with having a young family and raising them. Controversially, I might say that I’d prefer one less Queens of the Stone Age album to one more Spinnertte album but I hear the fanboys baying for blood already.