“He’s gone away / He’s gone away,” screams Brody Dalle at the end of “Drain the Blood,” the first track on Coral Fang. The Distillers’ third album opens with this quick street-punk anthem that recalls much of the group’s earlier work and teases to set the tone for more of the same.
However, as astute observers will note, the “Armstrong” is gone from Brody’s name, signifying her split with Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong, and much has changed. “He’s gone away” is not idle lamentation – it’s foreshadowing the next 45 minutes.
The second track, “Dismantle Me,” wastes no time in introducing a new sound. Singing like Courtney Love possessed by the spirit of Kurt Cobain, Dalle repeatedly moans in the chorus: “I want to bury you.” This is screaming punk with a rock and roll soul that follows a hard/soft formula atypical of the Distillers’ previously established sound.
As the album progresses, Dalle’s passionate and expressive singing takes over. Her simultaneously rough and well-trained voice has improved considerably since the Distillers’ self-titled debut. No matter what she’s saying, she demands attention. And her trademark screams still resonate like a chainsaw between the ears.
Although the Distillers remain rooted in street and gutter punk, they fearlessly explore other areas of punk and hard rock over the course of Coral Fang. Some of these attempts succeed and others fail. “The Gallow is God,” which operates on a much slower pace than traditional punk, feels Metallica-goes-acoustic awkward. On the other hand, the new-wave guitar riff that runs through “For Tonight You’re Only Here to Know” works surprisingly well. “The Hunger,” which lasts almost five and a half minutes – a startling departure from the one-to-three-minute cuts that characterized the band’s first two albums – falls somewhere in the abyss between.
Just like Iggy was the Stooges [Ahem, don’t say that around the Asheton brothers – Ed.], Dalle is the Distillers. Although her band does a decent job of backing the songs, Dalle’s singing and writing dominates the soundscape of Coral Fang. The only drawback to her taking all the songwriting credits for this album is that her breakup with Tim Armstrong seems to overpower its themes and stifle its intricacies. At times Dalle sounds like she’s overextending herself simply to make a statement. Hopefully more of a fad than a direction that the Distillers will choose to follow in the future, Coral Fang makes a strong argument that the only thing that’s inevitable, in both life and music, is change.
You can listen to the album and watch a video via the Distillers’ player.