If the mid-90s rock scene was a dumping ground for post-grunge projects and budding alt-rock diamonds in the rough, then it seems that Spinnerette would be right at home on a side stage at Lollapalooza circa ‘94. And that’s not meant as a knock, really, but more of an affirmation that the band’s more obvious inclinations have been successfully communicated. After all, it’s fairly easy to see that on their self-titled debut, all of the trashy, post-grunge riffing and mechanical Garbage-style production certainly suggests a mid-‘90s affinity. However, what really drives it all home is front woman Brody Dalle.
Former face of the underrated and now defunct punk outfit the Distillers, and current wife to the Queen of the Stone Age himself Josh Homme, Dalle exudes a blending of confidence and vulnerability on Spinnerette halfway between Kim Deal and Courtney Love that carries with it an elemental significance that only helps spark to life the more dreary portions of the LP. She still makes sure to bring with her some of the snarling punk personality that put her on the map to begin with, but it is precisely her mixture of identity that finds Spinnerette so intriguing, if not always satisfying.
Complete with anti-pop facades and even some honest-to-God, fade-out track endings to boot, Spinnerette acts as a weird time capsule that has been unearthed just a bit too soon. It’s a curious throwback that gets more curious as it trudges along through all of its digitized breakdowns and fuzzed up grunge guitars. Spinnerette mostly comes off like some long abandoned Butch Vig production that he was only half invested in and would rather not talk about anyway. But that’s not to say that the album is bad. As far as debuts go, it is probably one of the more fascinating of 2009. For lack of a better term, Spinnerette is just…odd.
It’s not that Dalle doesn’t know how to write hooks; though , admittedly, her melodic dissonance is more troubling than it is compelling. Songs like the cheeky “Geeking”, and the more than satisfying album opener “Ghetto Love” do provide convincing arguments to the contrary, however. And it’s not that Dalle can’t find a balance between punk posturing and the less visceral swagger evident in some of her lyrical playfulness, but there is never a real meeting point between the tools used on the LP and the contraption that those tools wish to design. In other words, it’s all method and no madness. It comes off sounding cold, mechanical, and slightly detached.
“All Babes Are Wolves” is one of the more impressive showings of Dalle’s hook-minded leanings. A pristine production of bells and whistles coupled with those calculated scars and warts that gives everything that imperfect perfect tone. A barely punk, mostly poppy, grunge throwback the hooks come fast and heavy, providing a blueprint for the album that could have been. Unfortunately, Spinnerette is more interested in less immediately gratifying indulgences.
Proving itself far more shallow than its deepest waters can attest to, Spinnerette is admittedly half of interesting project. However, it is also half of a bloated but ultimately empty mess. It’s a disparity that the LP never really recovers from. The fact that Dalle’s more apparent charms save a great portion of the material, doesn’t fully take away from the fact that this is, in fact, her overblown wank-fest in the first place.
While the post-punk revival is admittedly about as exciting as a freak-folk dance party at this point, one has to wonder if anyone is ready—or needs, for that matter—a flashback trip to 1994 just yet. Spinnerette present a sorta/kinda case for it here on their debut, but Dalle (in spite of herself) gets bogged down in the idea of it, and not so much the spirit. The end result is something full of potential, yes, but mostly just full of itself.
// Notes from the Road
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