Zack & Miri
Rancid, Let the Dominoes Fall (Epitaph)
Spinnerette, Spinnerette (Anthem)
It was six years ago that the romance between Rancid ringleader Tim Armstrong and The Distillers dominatrix Brody Dalle publicly fell to pieces. As one of the few notable pairs in punk, their union appeared to be stem out of mutual attachment to disheveled sonic stylings, as if rusty guitar tones and iconoclastic shouts could make love work. When Dalle let down her mohawk, left Armstrong for Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, and gradually tugged the plug on her project, it felt like some failing of the genre as a whole. Now, after Rancid’s changed drummers and labels and Dalle’s back with the dance floor kinetics of Spinnerette, co-analyzing their releases since ’03 makes for an interesting angle on their evolutions—or lack thereof.
Rancid, bless their scruffy hearts, have barely changed. The indecisive Indestructible, their solo Warner Bros. disc, drifted from their winsome formula of feel-good pop punk to varying results, so it’s nice that Dominoes finds the band back in standard form. Armstrong still champions his wiry pseudo-Strummer slur (it’s never going away) and he spends most of the album ruminating over his standard material: fictional women, friends, home and loose sociopolitical commentary involving working-class archetypes. Lars Frederiksen still mans the back-up vocals and is allowed his prerequisite amount of tracks. All the material present is vintage (or cliché, depending on your P.O.V.) Rancid: an upbeat ska structure (“Up to No Good”), a couple of speedy screeds (“You Want It, You Got It,” “Locomotive”), a madefor-airplay single (“Last One to Die”), and a slow break from the action (“The Highway”). Though fun, this is nothing remarkable: Rancid’s made this in different forms before.
Spinnerette, however, tears into something fresh. The taut, uncompromising roar that Dalle used to excellent effect in her former outfit has turned into a lucid purr. Spinnerette’s neon-tinged electro allows Dalle to revel in a refreshingly different side. Backed by a cast indicative of the breadth of the project’s influences (an ex-Distiller, an ex-Chili Pepper, and an occasional Queen), Spinnerette thrives on the sharply sexual. Two examples: “Sex Bomb” references “daddy” often enough to border on an Electra complex, and I swear that “Ghetto Love” mentions “the whores of the evening.” Fiery closer “All Babes Are Wolves” indicates something positive: If need be, she can still send those pipes into a furious whiplash.
While Rancid’s effort applies their well-worn forte to decent results, Spinnerette’s first LP provides a glimpse of a rich new front. Dalle’s project proves that she benefited from a clean break. Apologies, Tim.