October 29, 2018
Released On June 15, 2009
Released By Hassle Records & Anthen Records
I don’t know about you, but I make playlists for every occasion. There are the obvious ones like my “happy music to drown out the tears of passers-by” playlist but then I have playlists that are a little more out there, like my “songs that make could make Morrissey cry” playlist. It seems I live solely to create abstract playlists with mildly amusing titles. The music on these playlists spans a wide range of genres from gangster rap to bluegrass to math rock and I never hit shuffle. You see, these playlists are meticulously ordered to flow in and out of each other perfectly. One slip of the fingers whilst listening to my “Dido to break you, Bon Jovi to make you” playlist could have some devastating results.
Why, oh why do I put so much effort into making these playlists? Well, I firmly believe that simply existing is much more enjoyable with a decent soundtrack and I find that most of the time one album isn’t enough to justify a whole playlist. However, in my library of playlists I do have one playlist that is just one album by one band and that album is Spinnerette. It’s not because it’s a very versatile album that covers a range of feelings, but rather that it encapsulates one feeling particularly well.
The title of the playlist is just “Badass” and that’s exactly what you’ll feel like when you listen to Spinnerette.
Let me start this section by saying — where the hell is my Spinnerette appreciation parade? I genuinely feel like sometimes I’m the only fan of this band and I’m honestly not sure exactly who is to blame. Whether it’s ridged Distillers fans, the band’s uncertain future, Brody Dalle’s solo career, or even the very recent Distillers reunion — there are any number of reasons why this project got put on ice, but I wish it wasn’t. I have listened to this album probably more than any other since its release in 2009 (exactly 3,458 times if you trust my iTunes). It’s my go-to album for commuting because it moves at just the right pace, and colours the world in a sort of “metal malevolence” as they describe in “Ghetto Love.” It’s great for getting in and getting out of London during peak hours. You can feel yourself ascending to your peak badass levels as you cruise through “Cupid” and Brody’s deep crooning wraps around you like the perfect leather jacket. Sending essential “get lost” signals to anyone who dares attempt to disrupt your commute. Listen, I’m 5’3 so I need all the intimidating looks I can get, but back to the sound…
In my opinion, this band goes far beyond the confines of the alternative rock genre to deliver a sound that I want to call one of a kind post-apocalyptic synth-rock. I always thought their self-titled album would make a great soundtrack for cinema. In my mind, it would have to be either a dystopian thriller or an interstellar epic staring a devastatingly badass femme fatale. As much as I love this album and fantasized about it in other mediums, it didn’t seem to make many ripples in the mainstream. Perhaps their sound was simply before its time? Dirty guitars and buzzy synths blending raucously under Brody Dale’s warm and gritty vocals? Might not be enough for the masses, but it’s more than enough to make this my all-time favourite under-loved album.
It could be yours too! Put it on and enjoy, and then you can enhance your pre-post-apocalyptic playlist today with Spinnerette.
Erin Calvert (@erinpcalvert)
Elder Goth In The Making
A rock supergroup tailor made for the punk rejects and pop starlets, as well as every music geek in between.
I’m sure a lot of us have discovered this week that it’s nearly impossible to write about Spinnerette without some kind of comparison to The Distillers. Not that it’s completely unwarranted, given that Spinnerette was born from the ashes of The Distillers, and I don’t think there’s ever been an artist to start new band or side project that doesn’t get measured against their main band, at least initially. But as far as I can tell, Spinnerette is one of those projects that exists in a bubble where, for better or for worse, they’re solely seen as a continuation of Brody Dalle’s work with The Distillers. I think at least some of Spinnerette’s inability to be seen as a standalone project has to do with the fact that the band just kind of evaporated before getting to record a second album, but this is a good album in its own right. I’m certain that’s why Erin wanted to highlight this album, and I’m even more certain that I’m undermining myself by mentioning The Distillers immediately. That said, I don’t think there’s a better way to describe Spinnerette than to say that it bridges the gap between Coral Fang and Brody Dalle’s fantastic (and equally overlooked) solo album, Diploid Love, forming a musical trilogy of sorts. Sure, on “All Babes Are Wolves” Spinnerette does the aggressive punk thing, showcasing their roots but I think where the band really excels is the dancy, heavily distorted bass tunes. Tracks like “Ghetto Love” or “Rebellious Palpitations” are highlights of this poppier-but-still-not-pop sound, and are a fair representation of where Dalle took her music later (I won’t harp on about Diploid Love, because I’m supposed to be talking about Spinnerette, so I’ll just say that the two records complement each other). I don’t know if “Sex Bomb” would necessarily be classified as new wave but I sure wouldn’t correct someone who did call them that. My favorite moment on the album might be short, sweet, and gruesome “Impaler,” though I also might make the argument that the chorus of “Baptized By Fire” is easily one of the catchiest things that any of the members have recorded. And hey, let’s talk about the line up while I’m at it: I understand that a lot of focus is put on Brody Dalle because she’s the voice of the band, and that’s why guitarist Tony Bevilacqua’s contributions might be downplayed despite also having been in The Distillers; and Alain Johannes has been in so many bands that I can see why some might consider Spinnerette just another bullet point on his resume, but I don’t think it gets mentioned enough that founding Red Hot Chili Peppers / former Pearl Jam drummer Jack Irons was in this band. Spinnerette may always have to live under the shadow of The Distillers (and now that they’ve reformed, I’m sure that won’t change anytime soon), but let’s not forget that they are a supergroup in the purest sense of the term.
Red lipstick, the same shade of Red Red Red I’ve worn since junior prom. Black hair shaggy in the front, the natural wave yanked out by a straightening iron cranked up as high as it goes. Vintage dress, bra showing through just a bit, one of the two cans of Sparks I’d be having cracked open on the dresser, scenting the room with the twee orange of hard candy covering the syrupy malt liquor of the drink. Soon enough my friends would careen in to watch The Soup and down whatever cheaper alcohol we could before heading to the Buffalo for $1 bottles of PBR and scratching our names into the black paint of the alley bar, but before that I got the high of getting ready, the anticipation of what the night could be now that I was old enough to do whatever the hell I wanted. Spinnerette somehow manages to bottle all those moments when you just lose it singing, turning up the volume and singing half-dressed up at the ceiling, into an entire album. There is a definitive feeling of the thrill at the cusp of a rollercoaster drop, the kind of giddiness that can’t last a whole night but makes the night’s end all worth it. Spinnerette’s pop riot grrl album pulls that feeling, wraps it in a sexy, pseudo-risky veneer, and gives an album perfect for a night out or a drunk night in.
Laura Burroughs (@_thetwors)
Jestful Musical Erudite
The Distillers were one of those groups I would totally have been up on when they were out, if I’d been a little bit younger. In my mid-20s when their debut LP came out, I really wasn’t paying attention to what was going on in the world of pop-punk. I finally checked them out over a decade later, long after they broke up, due to a book about punk rock that my brother got me for Christmas one year called My So-Called Punk. They weren’t bad at all; I definitely liked the ways in which they reminded me of all the pop-punk bands I’d been listening to when I was a teenager, right before they got massively popular. Your Green Days, your Rancids, your Offsprings… you know the ones. But honestly, even five or so years ago, I wasn’t fucking with that kind of music too much, so I listened to that first Distillers album a few times and then filed it away in the endless data storage tanks I’ve spent the past fifteen years filling to ridiculous levels with unheard or barely-heard music. Now I’m checking out Spinnerette, a later effort that brought Brody Dalle and her Distillers bassist, Tony Bevilacqua, together with legendary drummer Jack Irons and his Eleven bandmate, Alain Johannes. Johannes played bass with Queens Of The Stone Age for a couple of years just before the formation of Spinnerette, and Brody Dalle had been married to Queens’ frontman Josh Homme for a couple of years by the time Spinnerette got started. The snotty melodic punk of The Distillers is certainly an element in Spinnerette’s sound, but I think it’s the QOTSA connection that tells you more about what you’re going to get when you put this album on. There’s a darkly smooth vibe to this entire album that is decidedly not punk in origin, and it colors all of the elements of Spinnerette’s sound. It’s a little bit post-punk, but it’s more on the heavy end of alternative rock than anything, and therefore fits with the post-Songs For The Deaf QOTSA stuff, when Homme really took full charge of the group and started to take it away from its desert-stoner roots. The punk aspects that still remain in Spinnerette’s sound show up mostly on front-loaded tracks like “Ghetto Love” and “Geeking.” By the time you get deep into the back half, the spooky alt-rock vibes have taken charge, as can be easily heard on “Sex Bomb,” “A Prescription For Mankind,” and most strongly on “The Walking Dead.” There are times on the album’s moodier tracks where Dalle’s voice takes on a decidedly P!nk-ish character (“Baptized By Fire” especially), and far from a strike against her, this is actually one of the more interesting elements in the Spinnerette mix, showing that she isn’t just a snotty punk snarler but can really actually sing. Fans of The Distillers were probably a little thrown by this record, and if you expect an album that could stand right next to Dookie and Let’s Go in your Cali punk collection, you will be too. But if you’re willing to let Brody Dalle stretch beyond the expectations formed by her most famous work, you’ll be rewarded with a much broader range of musical talent. Spinnerette’s got it in spades.
A couple of weekends ago, I finally snagged a copy of Lament From Epirus, a book that was published in May of this year and written by legendary 78 rpm record collector Christopher C. King. Richmond record store Steady Sounds hosted an event where King was spinning records and signing copies of Lament, and just before I got mine signed, I heard him talking about one of the book’s themes — something King’s written about before in the liner notes of his wildly compelling, Grammy-winning compilations: The function music plays in everyday life, and the idea that music has served as a tool for survival since songs existed. I bring that up now because Spinnerette got me thinking about King’s thesis on Sunday, when I was physically and spiritually drained and setting off on a run that my body needed but didn’t want. The durable, propulsive beats I found on Spinnerette’s self-titled album made all the difference, and the effect was immediate, given how “Ghetto Love” helped me snap into a groove at the same time it called to mind Mudhoney’s “Pump It Up.” (Anyone else have a copy of this red translucent “Pump It Up” b/w “Stomp” 7-inch PCU mini-soundtrack? Just me?) These rhythms aren’t just fun or danceable; they trigger a biological reaction that makes constant movement seem natural. The lyrics provided their own boost, with a balance of dogged searching (“How do I find my way back home?” in “Distorting A Code“) and declarations of fierce self-determination (“Take a joyride with devil again” in “A Spectral Suspension“). Stylistically, Spinnerette couldn’t be more different from the European folk tradition that Chris King explores in Lament From Epirus, but I truly believe all music is connected, and when you’re lucky, the right album finds you at the right time.
Setting fire to the gospel, as well as part of the film reel apparently.
The deep rasp of Brody Dalle’s voice and the application of it to a style of punk which was peaking in popularity in the ’90s helped propel she and her band, The Distillers, to top of mind for punk fans and also to pin-up status. Let’s face it, as cool as Tim Armstrong is, he doesn’t look as good on your wall as a tall, mohawked punk girl snarling at you disrespectfully from the street. After increasingly great albums, it wasn’t immediately clear why the Distillers ceased to be, but news of her new project Spinnerette brought hope that there was more to come. What was a little unexpected was the change in style. While the Distillers specialized in signature British-style punk rock with loosely played guitar riffs and jangly, wild dynamics, she travelled a little further down the road to what would eventually become the punk-influenced pop-rock star, Brody Dalle. But somewhere in between, a single underrated album seemed to fall on deaf ears. “All Babes Are Wolves” still gets repeat plays on my all-time favourites playlist. Present here are all the vocal elements that she displayed in The Distillers’ “The Hunger” while the music takes on a low-fi, fast-paced and unrelenting charge. Every bit of this record is crunchy rock and roll that suffered an inexplicable lack of press and recognition. Perhaps nobody knew who was behind Spinnerette. Perhaps people doubted her ability to succeed beyond the influence of her colleagues in Rancid. Whatever the case, Brody Dalle doesn’t give a shit what you think and her ability to make that audible and translate it into a musical style sets her apart from most modern female rockers. Wherever Dalle goes and whatever she does, it seems she’ll never stray too far from her punk rock roots. But those of you who are purists and wonder what such a band could possibly have to offer need only look as far as other revolutionaries like Debbie Harry and Joan Jett. Brody Dalle is standing on the shoulder of giants and Spinnerette was a rung in the ladder to her formation as an artist worth following. If you slept on Spinnerette’s debut full length LP, go get it now. You won’t be disappointed.
Here we are again with another artist and another album that sees the beginning appeal of rough and tumble garage punk take a support role in a musician’s life after reaching a certain point in their career and a certain point in their individual artistic motivations. But this week’s artist doesn’t seem to let go of her past musical life with such definition as The Sidekicks. Let’s pretend we don’t know who The Distillers are. Going in fresh and with nonexistent sonic expectations beyond the preface that Spinnerette is supposedly filled with more pop-driven and stylized songwriting, the funny thing is, the very first track, “Ghetto Love,” busts out some downbeat-heavy rhythms and notably aggressive tonality in the snare, bass, and a massively distorted guitar. Brody Dalle’s smooth vocal tone, particularly when it stands against such a brash instrumental backdrop, is likely from where most of the more pop-oriented polish on this “newly-eponymous” album comes. However, that’s not to say this former garage girl is serving up delicately sung melodies. No, the sound in her voice might be smooth but the weight and power behind everything Dalle sings is as solid as a rock. The fearless garage spirit very much carries over into Spinnerette, but the overall presentation has just gotten a bit of a glammed up touch from production and a decision of restraint surrounding bombastic production or mix choices for her voice. The individual notes of specific sounds and the resulting blends of the rock band tool kit are both subtle enough to make the 12 track set sound easily connective with each other but also subtle enough to keep each song very different if enough time is given to take in each song on its own. “Sex Bomb” for example, boasts unusual character with its vintage vinyl style plug-in (note the pops and cracks in the introduction), and a hook that revolves around a pentatonic scale set of notes. The song almost seems like it belongs on a playlist of J-Pop inspired tracks. (Side note: a song called “Sex Bomb,” with garage leaning attitude and a J-Pop style melody should have been added to Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, but what can you do?) Where many of the rest of the albums’ songs are concerned, though I want to simply say “Spinnerette channels the likes of icons like Joan Jett, Heart, Blondie, and Pat Benatar!” That wouldn’t be quite right though. There’s a deeper level of intensity with Spinnerette that separates each of these artists form Dalle enough for this not to just be a declaration of, “Brody Dalle is just like all these people but sounds newer because she is.” The band performance and tonal choices are far too rugged, and unapologetically so, to make drawing direct line — no matter how far extending said line between everyone would be — possible. Somewhere in that linear display, the likes of Cage The Elephant, Royal Blood, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and Queens Of The Stone Age would force a detour because things like the cavernous toms, thick and pitch warped guitar, and even songs containing moments in which Dalle flat out belts (“All Babes Are Wolves,” “A Prescription For Mankind,” “Ghetto Love,”), just take things too far down the hard rock (and roll) fork in the road. The other women I mention above are, of course, fierce in their own rights. However, the rest of their completed sounds tend to keep a cleaner sense of melody, even if the volume and attitude levels are both turned way up. Spinnerette is heavy rock with a burst of pop sparkle and listener magnetism. It combines a pair of style ideals that not only are not the most common but are not the most common among women. Brody Dalle is a bad ass but she’s showing she wants to, and can, still keep things bright and glamorous without foregoing a single inch of her tough-as-nails identity.
I feel almost guilty for liking this record as much as I do. Sure, I was aware of The Distillers, the band Brody Dalle was in before launching Spinnerette, but I don’t think I ever listened to them. Or if I did, nothing stuck. I was also tangentially aware that Dalle had been married to the loathsome Tim Armstrong and, after an acrimonious divorce, had later made a more solid connection with the slightly less odious Josh Homme, with whom she is currently married with children. But Dalle’s shitty taste in men didn’t affect what I thought of her music career as much as the impression that she was a bit of a dilettante. Don’t know where it came from, but it was definitely there. Then there was the cover of the album, which I had to admit was… eye catching, but gave the feminist in me pause. All that background noise went poof and disappeared as soon as I clicked play on this sleek and furiously dark, dank Sex Bomb (track 8!) of a record. Every song is a heat-seeking missile of grinding bass, thumping drums, and nasty guitars. Dalle slathers her vocals over the top, snarling, soaring, or declaiming breathily, always fully committed and always in control, deploying the power of restraint. On this album anyway, Dalle is a fucking rock star of the old school and I couldn’t stop listening. The name of the band, referring to the web-generating organ possessed by some spiders, made perfect sense as the sticky strands of these killer songs nailed my attention completely. Great rock & roll has a way of upending expectations and bypassing the cerebral and Spinnerette checks both those boxes in bold, dripping ink. And if the last song, wryly entitled “A Prescription For Mankind,” finds the band slipping off the rails, that only seems par for the course. I have zero idea if anything else Dalle has perpetrated has a fraction of what this album has, but I sure hope so!
A rabidly uncompromising frontwoman with enough guts & talent to fill the entire scope of rock music.
Remember that time Pitchfork backtracked on their original review of Andrew WK’s I Get Wet? This is gonna be a bit like that. OK, so not only have I heard of this band before, I reviewed this album for Best Fit when it came out. (Pardon the bizarre formatting, which is a result of a server migration a few years ago.) And since I gave it a score of 60%, you could say I wasn’t exactly fond of it. The lede best sums up my reaction at the time: “What the fuck, Brody?”. I was a big Distillers fan (and still am), and Spinnerette… wasn’t that. The band and album are clearly a maturation for Brody Dalle, something I had yet to do, or even start, at 23. The snarky tone throughout was carried over from my college years and probably worsened by 2009 since I was working a third shift job that I didn’t much care for. Not everything about my piece is regrettable, though. I described Dalle’s voice as a “leathery rasp” which works just fine, I suppose. Additionally, I highlighted “All Babes Are Wolves” as one of the album’s best tracks. I still agree with that. Furthermore, it’s one of the best and most fun songs in Dalle’s career. I also highlighted her cynical lyrics, which are as humorous to me now as they were nine years ago. The opening lines to “Geeking” are gleefully nihilistic, and “Sex Bomb” is the best kind of trashy. Perhaps the most notable aspect of my review is how I ended it. Spinnerette didn’t last long after their self-titled debut and are currently in a limbo of sorts. It’s a bit eerie, then, that I concluded my piece thusly: “Here’s to hoping this is just a phase.” So there’s that.
I was 16 years old and it was the week before Christmas. I flew from Spokane to John Wayne in Orange County to spend the holidays with my dad and little brothers. It was only my second time flying truly on my own without having airport staff hovering and mothering me, like I couldn’t figure out how to find my next plane on my own. I spent my layovers chain-smoking Camel Lights and reading one of the books in my backpack (likely Anne Rice or Tom Robbins). I no longer listened to music in the airports — I learned that lesson on my previous solo flight, when I was rushing from one area to the next and the lunch box I carried my tapes in came open while hurrying across the concourse and cassettes scattered everywhere, like teens running from a house party once the cops arrive — so this time I was forced to make small talk with the people who don’t understand that a book meant leave me the fuck alone. A flight attendant who was also chain-smoking between flights assumed I was heading home from college for the holidays and asked what plans I had. Instead of talking about my friend who would be taking the train down from SLO to spend a few days with me, I told her about all the plans I had to visit record stores. How visiting my dad was the best because there were so many places in such a small area that I just knew I’d be heading back with an extra bag full of new (to me) music, that I had another duffel already packed inside my suitcase to carry my treasure back with me. She asked if I was looking for anything in particular, and I told her I didn’t really care what I found. That I picked things based solely on their covers, and that most of the places I went had 7 for $10 deals on used CDs so I was sure to find something I’d like, even if there were a few duds. Spinnerette’s debut sounded so much like something I would have found at Moby Disc in the mid-’90s that I didn’t even question my assumption that it was at least 20 years old until after my second listen. Learning that it was released in 2009 was a huge shock. Surely this album with its “Ghetto Love,” which sounds like a lost track from Lush’s Lovelife, was released much earlier? The guitars on “Cupid” sound so much like those on Sonic Youth’s “Youth Against Fascism,” there’s no way Spinnerette came out 17 years after Dirty… is there? I guess everything old is new again, even if the new is now almost 10 years old.
50 Foot Pop Queenie
There’s a lot to like about this record, but I’ll try to squeeze it all into one haunting blurb (Happy Halloween!). “Cupid” is one of my favorites, mostly because it employs the always classic “wall of sound” approach. The well-timed bells and driving strings make me wonder if the ghost of Jerry Wexler isn’t far off. I actually found myself laughing out loud, though not quite a Vincent Price “Thriller” laugh, at the clever lyricism of “Geeking:” “We’re not in sync, we’re a sinking ship / going down together / going down on each other.” Spinnerette also brought the demons out by spinning their vocals backwards on the fitting “Distorting A Code.” It just makes you want to go out and buy the vinyl, doesn’t it? If Spinnerette is a pillow case full of candy, then “Sex Bomb” is the full size Snickers bar in that pillow case full of candy. Even though the sexual empowerment of women is nothing new, as a man, it still sounds a bit jarring (in the best way possible) to hear women express themselves in such an aggressive manner. I love it. I mean, who doesn’t love a woman that’s down to… fun? She’s got pumpkins, and I’ve got candy corn. Let’s monster mash.
I’m conflicted here. Really conflicted, but not because of this record. This record is sensational — for fans of rock, punk, garage, or even pop music that swirls around distorted guitars. There’s just no denying the magnetism on display in every single track here, mostly due to Brody Dalle’s majestic excoriating as a lyricist and singer. She sashays and moseys her way through each song, changing nothing about her words, voice, or approach even as the structure, sound, and tone all swivel around her. She moves through the album like a bonafide star, one that leaves a trail of employees and hanger-ons in her wake, graceful just to be in her shadow. Let me be clear though — by no means does the band here fit that description. Tony Bevilacqua, Jack Irons, and Alain Johannes are all prolific musicians who know just how to properly bandy together to prop up Dalle, while also showing off their own skill in a distinct way throughout the record. As a life-long Chili Pepper fan, I’d be remiss to not give a shout-out to Irons, a founding member of the band who recorded only one proper album with the group, the frantically spectacular Uplift Mofo Party Plan from 1987. But as a fan of music, I cannot spend more than that sentence talking about Irons’ invaluable contributions to alt-rock. This music is too rich to deconstruct on a peripherial layer — you either talk about it on the whole or you gush embarrassingly about how inspiring, powerful, and talented Brody Dalle is. Sorry, guys. And this is where I become conflicted. Part of me wants to end this blurb on that note — throwing as much praise at the feet of Brody Dalle and Spinnerette for creating such a rousing piece of rock music that can blend in precisely with a dozen different musical scenes. I don’t want to bring up The Distillers, an equally great band with a more accepting following and gracious legacy. I don’t even want to bring up Rancid. But the vitriol Spinnerette faced in its creation and prime is too much to ignore. This album does not belong in the halls of Off Your Radar, but exists there solely because of the toxic fanbases that Tim Armstrong lords over, and The Distillers unwillingly catered to. It feels like the same kind of toxic fanbase that exists in today’s sports culture, where you’re conditioned to care about everything they do on court, and absolutely nothing off the court, and God forbid if the latter bleeds into the former. Brody Dalle is perfectly fine rocking our ears off, but the moment she steps out of consensus and throws a punk pillar under the bus, she’s trash who will never be as good as she was. As if that could ever be the case listening to this fantastic record. Like I said, I don’t want to bring this up, but I have to, mostly for the delusional hope that someone might read this and realize their own shortcomings as a fan of someone who’s branched out or maybe did something they disagree with. I talk about this because I feel like I have to, but I’ll be damned if that will be the last thing I’ll say on this record. Spinnerette is welcome chaos for any rock fan, with just enough melody to win over casual listeners and just enough experimentation to surprise a musical curmudgeon. It might not be the best rock record you’re going to listen to this year or in 2009 when it was released, but it’s more than capable of consuming your headphones for a whole month if you let it, and it’s a month you’ll look back on fondly down the line.
Arclight by Julian Lage
Chosen By Davy Jones