Monday, January 4, 2010

Review #33: The Distillers - Sing Sing Death House (2002)


Year: 2002
Genre: Punk Rock
Sub-Genres: Hardcore
Label: Epitaph Records
Tracks: 12
Length: 28 Minutes (Medium-Length)
Style: Angry/Emotional/Happy
My Rating: 7/8

For the first time in awhile at least, the 00's were a fucking musical Dark Age. There was SO MUCH utter SHIT in the first decade of the 21st Century, it's not even funny. And yet, it wasn't entirely unbearable. Once in a great while, you could come across a great band like the Distillers. It's like finding a diamond in the shit. In an era where Brittany Spears, BrokenCYDE, Soulja Boy, N*SYNC, My Chemical Romance, Blink-182, and Lil' Wayne were the "hottest thing" among my peers and what the popular kids would listen to to try to look like "badasses", kids with actual taste in music were so fucking grateful when they'd find a band that had no bullshit and could actually write good songs. I was, at least. And the age of SHIT-MUSIC is not quite over yet, so I still am. However, the Distillers left us in 2006, so they're not really anything that new.

Now, not everybody liked the Distillers. Because Brody Dalle was married to Tim Armstrong of Rancid for a few years, a lot of sexist fuckfaces liked to accuse Brody of having Tim write songs for her, and that the Distillers were nothing more than a female-fronted version of Rancid. They also accuse Brody of being a "whore". Look how many fucking MEN in rock n' roll sleep around, and nobody cares! I swear, some of these fucking douchebags just like to keep their women under control. If that's the case, then I'd love to rip their balls off. Anyways, back to my point, no, I actually think the Distillers were a much better band than Rancid. Sure, they might have been musically similar in a few ways, but the Distillers' charm is mainly in the fact that Brody is quite skilled at writing good plain old rock songs. Good chord progressions, good lyrics, good beats, good vocals... y'know, the stuff that makes a band listenable. Sing-Sing Death House isn't much of a difference from their debut LP, style-wise, but the old fire is still with 'em at this point. These are pretty much the songs that would've been on that first record if there were enough room for 'em. And they're great songs. Time to talk about 'em.

1. Sick of it All
Arguably my favorite song on the album. It's a hard-edged song about problems among teenagers in this era, such as self-starvation, school shootings... still the confused protagonists of the song have one thing to keep 'em alive -- punk rock n' roll! Brody does some really good vocal melodies here, especially in the "pull the fuckin' trigger 'cause I'm sick of it all" line. The song starts very fast, and the "we are kids" end-section of the song is slightly more easy-going, but still fast and energetic.

2. I Am a Revenant
As you can see, they put the two best songs at the beginning. And that's okay, I guess. It's similar to "Sick of it All" in the fact that it's a mostly very fast song that ends a little slower, but the lyrical content is a slight bit more uplifting. Wonderful vocal harmonies in this one. This is one of the greatest songs of its time, in my opinion.

3. Seneca Falls
An athemic song dedicated to the various battles for Womens' Rights that have taken place throughout the ages. It's another fastie like the two songs before it. As I said before, it's got a lot of historically-oriented lyrics. Hell, the lyrics to this song could be written as a history text-book. Kinda like the "Red Carpet and Rebellion", but a little happier.

4. The Young Crazed Peeling
This one's slower than the three songs before it. There's a music video for it, with the band performing in a white room and walking through the city. It's basically Brody singing about her lame childhood and how it's all better now. This was the first Distillers song I ever heard. I don't regret it one bit.

5. Sing Sing Death House
This one's really thrashy. Basically an angry, fast, short, abrasive song of internal torment. Very nice vocals.

6. Bullet and the Bullseye
Very similar to the previous track, style-wise. Not a ton I can say, except that I thought the line "You think I'm a sucker, aw, you're fuckin' sick -- the only thing I suck is my man's DICK!" was unintentionally pretty funny.

7. City of Angels
Another one of the first songs by the band I ever heard. It's probably the most mainstream-sounding song on the album, and there's a music video for it. Basically a very up-beat song about the grim underside of Los Angeles.

8. Young Girl
This is a more finished version of the hidden track on the album before this. It has backing vocals, bass, and a beat. It's about Brody's friend who was abused by another man as a child.

9. Hate Me
Damn, listen to her SCREAM! This is a pretty fast song, and the lyrics can't really be deciphered, 'cause Brody screams more high-pitched here than any other Distillers song there is.

10. Desperate
A fast song that's supposedly about drug addiction. It's pretty short, but it's good. Great vocals.

11. I Understand
Starts with the line "Hey, double-bubble, I'll give you a ride", which is followed by a scream. A fast, mostly bass-driven song. It's a song about how Brody felt like her awful teenage years destroyed her in some ways.

12. Lordy Lordy
This one has almost a country-ish sound to it. Similar theme to the previous song, except in a more present-tense viewpoint. Not very long, but it's not a bad closer for the al-bum.

So, I don't care what anyone has to say about what I'm about to say: this is one of the greatest albums of its time. The songs are just good. It needs no fluff. It needs no musical complexity. This is just a really good ROCK album. After this album was released, the Distillers went on to sign with Sire Records, and Casper Rose Mazolla left the band, leaving Brody as the only remaining member of the original lineup. I was so happy when I found out about this band, and I'm still glad that I did. If you're a fan of Hole, Rancid, or the Gits, you might end up liking this a lot... hell, I hope you like it anyways! Good album. One of the best albums of the decade.


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