Brody Dalle: George Campos/LFI
David Browne
October 17, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Coral Fang

Current Status
In Season
Warner Bros.

We gave it a B

With her rehearsed pout, lip piercings, and raccoon-inspired eyeliner, Distillers frontwoman Brody Dalle looks almost too perfectly hardcore, as if she emerged from an East Village costume store. Vocally, though, the relocated Australian punkette shreds her throat with the best of them, lurching, like Courtney Love, from a ghostly whisper to a phlegmy roar within seconds. During ravaged, scornful tracks like ”Drain the Blood,” Coral Fang sounds like the ”Live Through This” follow-up Love has yet to make. As she did on the band’s two prior indie-label releases, Dalle wails graphic, visceral lyrics that describe the end of a relationship as a grisly experience ripped from the goriest of action films. The tunes — this time presumably inspired by her breakup with her spouse, Rancid’s Tim Armstrong (she was, until recently, Brody Armstrong) — are strewn with references to blood, nooses, gallows, suicides, and ripped-out tongues. ”I’ll burn in my own funeral pyre,” she sings in the title song, ”and from your mouth I will rise.” To Dalle, love is like an exorcism.

Beyond Dalle’s rusty-razor delivery, though, little about ”Coral Fang” is remotely dangerous or shocking. The latest incarnation of the Distillers has brawn to spare, and the quartet tears through these songs with the ”one-two-three-four” thrust of modern punk. In their hands, ”Dismantle Me” becomes a lusty call to arms. But the album largely demonstrates that, like bluegrass or polka, punk has explicitly defined parameters, and the Distillers, along with many of their peers, rarely move beyond them. When they do, as in the seven-minute feedback sprawl that ends the car-crash mess of ”Deathsex,” the results are so far from punk concision that they’re more puzzling than exhilarating.

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