Dilly Dally is a four-piece rock band from Toronto who describes themselves as “#softgrunge” on their Facebook page - I'm not sure how serious it is, but it seems to be relatively accurate (and in a good way, believe it or not!) Their debut Sore gives me two things I’ve been looking for in modern-day rock: (1) more girl rock bands, and (2) more albums packed with simple, good rock songs. Too often it’s a bunch of dudes putting out albums with stand-out singles and stand-out shit or concept albums that are too overwhelming for riding-the-bus tunes. High school friends Katie Monks (guitarist/lead-singer) and Liz Ball (guitarist), along with Jimmy Tony (bassist) and Benjamin Reinhartz (drummer), have put out an album that has hints of The Pixies and The Lovely Bad Things, but with Monks' rough vocals make them totally unique.
The debut starts off with a simple “1, 2, 3, 4” snarl from Monks, but the rest of the album is far from predictable. The album cover features a bejeweled, bleeding tongue stud and bright, pink lipsticked lips. Raw female sexuality is all over this album, something that seems hard to find for anyone who doesn’t listen to Top 40. The opener, “Desire,” is probably the singlest song, with straightforward guitar work and that rough yell “desire” that Monks catchily repeats throughout. There isn’t much substance - lyrically or musically - going on here, but it’s surprisingly alluring. It’s cheap, dirty, and leather-clad, which is what rock is all about, right?
This "#softgrunge" combo of no-frills guitars and rough vocals makes me think of what Iceage would be like with female vocals. Monks and Iceage’s Elias Rønnenfelt have that same growling drawl that’s simultaneously angry, bittersweet, and sexy. Some of the big moments on this album really are Monks delivery: the heavy panting in the middle of “The Touch;” the snide lines “‘cuse me, let me get my backpack / These painkillers are no fun / Ms. Bitch is goin’ crazy / She’ll make you turn to stone” on “Snakehead;” the subtle, dynamic change-in-tone at the end of “Purple Rage.” I'd be shocked if seeing Monks live wasn't totally badass.
That isn’t to say the rest of the band isn’t good - if anything they set the tone so Monks can stand out. There’s the full-throttle intro to “The Touch” that’s almost stoner rock; the bittersweet, hazy atmosphere on “Next Gold;” the fantastic quiet-down near the end of “Ballin Chain". That blurred punk-grunge fusion has touches of Speedy Ortiz, Cayetana, and The Lovely Bad Things, but this sound combined with Monks vocals and attitude just seems like the perfect match.
The best song on here has got to be “Green.” Monks’ vocals go all over the place, starting with that straightforward opening line “I want you naked in my kitchen making breakfast,” and eventually breaking into howling scatting midway through. And of course there’s that chorus, a simple, sweet sentiment that we don’t hear enough in rough, grungy rock: “Cuz I need food and I need light, and dammit I need you. Just because my heart is clean doesn’t mean it’s new.” On top of all this, the guitars drive this somber riff reminiscent of The Pixies that I love. It’s also one of the shortest songs on the album - at two and a half minutes, it makes you wish it was longer, but it’s already perfect.
The only song that doesn’t seem to fit the rest of this album is “Burned By The Cold,” a drawn-out piano piece that just doesn't work that well. The instrumental and vocal melody is too forgettable, which is unusual for Monks, who seems to make almost any line burn in your head. The track makes me think of a failed attempt to mimic closing-out quiet songs, like The Smiths’ “Asleep” or more recently Iceage’s “Against The Moon” and Touché Amoré’s “Condolences.”
Other than that, every song on here is excellent straightforward, grungy rock. I can’t wait to see what this band does next.
7.5 / 10
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