The Distillers -- Coral Fang

Despite Gil Norton's slick production, the Distillers' third and final album, 2003's Coral Fang, retains much of the saw-toothed fury for which the band is famous. Of course, even the strongest belt sander in the shop couldn't smooth out Brody Dalle's vocals -- indeed, the former Mrs. Armstrong's voice tears a jagged hole through the album's aural fabric with a gravelly ferocity beyond anything her ex-husband could muster, even if he'd smoked his way through a crate of Pall Malls.

That said, while Dalle continues to spit her trademark venom throughout the album, Coral Fang does lack some of the bite for which The Distillers (2000) and Sing Sing Death House (2002) earned praise. This tamer, poppier sound is particularly evident in the record's latter half, when acoustic guitars and melodic backing vocals soften the sonic blow showcased on tracks like "Drain the Blood" and "Dismantle Me."


Track 1.
"Drain the Blood." A bilious screed penned by a woman "living on shattered faith" among murderers and predators. Nice.

Track 2. "Dismantle Me." A hook-laden, hard-driving raw nerve of a tune, reminiscent of the the band's earlier sound.

Track 5. "Coral Fang." The album's title track is pure punk: fast, loud, and damn pissed. With a near-perfect balance of melodic ohhs-wah-oohs and blood-curdling screeching sung over solid 77-style riffs, "Coral Fang" captures the energy of the eponymous album better than any other song on the record.

Track 6. "The Hunger." Leave it to Dalle to transform what initially sounds like Tom Petty playing "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" into the pounding catharsis of a scorned lover slashing at the stifling loneliness closing in on her. It's also a perfect lead-in to "Hall of Mirrors," the album's beautifully vitriolic break-up song.

Track 8. "Beat Your Heart Out." An incredibly catchy single, "Beat Your Heart Out" continues to enjoy a good deal of airtime on Sirius's Punk channel, as well it should.

Sobriquet Grade: 92 (A-). This is about as close to an A as an A-minus record can get. It's not quite groundbreaking, but it's great nonetheless. I have to admit, I love the fact that when some people started throwing fits about the album's original cover art (a crucified woman, nude save for a pair of stiletto heels, wounded in Christ-like fashion), the Distillers replaced the offending image with a crowd of cute, furry animals. One of the best albums of the decade.


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