Thursday, February 05, 2004

#81) Distillers - Sing Sing Death House (released in 2002, I taped the radio station's copy after seeing the video for "The Young Crazed Peeling," and eventually bought the CD itself from City Lights)

If I had to, I’d take this half-hour ripsnort over the entire discographies of Hole, Nirvana, Rancid, Queens Of The Stone Age, Patti Smith, Social Distortion and just about any other group tangentially associated with the Distillers. Swiping Courtney Love’s grain, Rancid’s boisterous bass-bolstered sound and jacking everything up a notch, this stuff achieves an anthemic quality that utilizes the lessons and techniques of the past while burning with a passion and relevancy devoid of nostalgia. Bandleader Brody (Armstrong…Dalle…she just uses her first name in the lyrics so let’s stick with that) is defiant in the face of emotional and physical pain, determinedly shrieking over the sonic carnage, making it hers just when it seems it would overpower a lesser singer. Brody’s heroic hunger to speak out and represent never comes off as pompous; this isn’t messanicism, just refreshing testimony.

As usual, the highlights for me are the pop songs – “City Of Angels” a caustic portrait of a “valley of unease,” Brody’s tribute to the suffrage movement “Seneca Falls,” and especially “The Young Crazed Peeling.” Right after “Seneca Falls” ends a chant of “freedom, rise up for me,” Brody asks us if we’re ready to be liberated and up and DOES IT, rapping out her autobio over some righteous Calipunk boing-boing, smirking for our sins and realizing that she’s got everything she needs. When it’s playing on my stereo or in my head, I do too. Half these compliments don't apply to the follow-up Coral Fang, but I don't want to think about that.

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