The Distillers – Coral Fang

I was at the Warped Tour in Fresno a few years ago and I had successfully dragged two of my friends to the show along with my sister. After the security check we ran around the tents and got to the front of the stage where some techies and roadies were setting up. On walked three women and one man. Together they were … The Distillers! It’s true; the band had once consisted of three females, Casper, Kim and Brody, and one male, Matt. Being the first band of a short show sucks. These brave souls were the first band of a daylong event. Needless to say, most of the crowd was not overly enthusiastic. I had not heard of The Distillers until that moment and after the first couple of songs the band grew on me. I loved the idea of having three women and one man in a band. On top of it, this mostly female band kicked a lot of ass. It was impressive. Like any show, this show had its share of assholes in the crowd. Some jerk took it upon himself to hurl some water bottles at the band. As if it isn’t hard enough opening the Warped Tour and playing to unenthusiastic kids. Still, they took it in stride and powered on. The vocals that came out of the women were very brash and unapologetic without giving up the concept of melody. I remember thinking I had not heard anything of the sort before. It was quite different; not hardcore by definition but far from pop-punk.

Since this first encounter the band has gone through a multitude of transformations: lineup changes, marriages, and divorces. As one would imagine, with so many changes it would be a miracle for the music to remain the same. While I loved their self-titled album, I found their following album to be more than decent but not meeting my expectations. Once again we have come across the same labeling … Coral Fang is decent but not on par to expectations. It seems as if the sound, the energy, the fury, the passion, the creativity, the uniqueness I had initially experience at that Warped Tour in Fresno has faded or been misplaced. This album is extremely reminiscent of Courtney Love and Hole. This is not necessarily a bad thing because I like Love’s voice; her antics and inability to care for her daughter are far different matters, but in sounding like Hole, or Love, the Distillers have definitely lost their identity. I know it is customary for bands to try to progress and try difference things in attempt to push the boundaries they may see for themselves. This album, however, is a step in the wrong direction.

Let me begin with the cover insert. It is appalling. I am unsure of the message that is trying to be portrayed through the misplaced limbs and random blood. There is a woman with what seems like a razor blade for a head, who appears to be searching for a nonexistent vagina with her fingers. I do not understand the motivation behind the gruesome, spastic, and sadomasochist illustrations. The insert provides the lyrics but unfortunately, they are extremely difficult to read and in some cases, simply impossible.

On to the music: The songs are excessively consistent with each other. Still there are some songs in which there are a few promising melodies. For example in “Coral Fang” the line, “the coral fang sinking in” (if I got the words wrong it is because I can’t read the lyrics), is not a bad melody. Unfortunately, this line is left to flounder and is followed by more semi-boring and tried sounds. In this album it seems as if Brody is trying to showcase her voice a bit more. In “The Hunger” she attempts to slow the pace down. Her voice is surprisingly calm and chill. That is, until she scares you with “Don’t Go”; she screams it with all her viciousness. It is such a terrible contrast with the rest of the song. While the increased pace for the instruments is not terrible in this part, the vocals are. It seems as if there is a lack of transition from the slower to faster parts as far as the instrumentation goes. Aside from that and the lack of transition the song is pretty good; in comparison to the rest of the album.

In “Beat Your Heart Out”, there is a line where Brody slips into some very pleasant, deep, slow, kind of talk/whisper vocals which I love. These vocals are replicated later in the song, this time with some vocal effects causing her to sound distant. These effects did not work well. In “Death Sex” there are various points where her voice sounds as if it is going to fail – clearly noticeable in the parts where she screams or attempts to scream for a prolonged period of time. If she keeps this up she may have to be put on voice rest and what a shame that would be.

While the album’s best song, “Drain The Blood” is seemingly ill-placed because for each preceding song I was expecting something better, only to be left disappointed. The problem I have with this song is that while the chorus is decent and the verses great, they did not seem to fit well together. I suppose that is how I feel about the album in general. Some reasonable points that were not capitalized, matched with some passable but not great material, hindered by some failing and unoriginal vocals all made for an adequate but in no way stunning album (I just do not understand any of the artwork or how it corresponds with the album). It will satisfy those who are complacent as far as their music findings go and leave others disgusted or at least disappointed. Others will praise the heavens for a Hole reincarnate. I, on the other hand long for the days where three girls and one guy were willing to dish it out as the first band of a Warped Tour date as they were faced with apathetic faces and flailing water bottles.

(Sire Records)