Release Date: Oct 9, 2015
Record label: Partisan / PTKF
It’s kind of great, isn’t it, when you encounter a band that is new (to you) yet brings with it a sound and aesthetic that slots perfectly, filling some kind of void you never quite realised was actually there. Of course, Dilly Dally aren’t new in the freshly-hatched-into-the-world-of-music sense. Their biography tells of founders Katie Monks and Liz Ball’s long musical connection, of six years 'drenched in the Toronto music scene', of 'working shit jobs, being in debt, partying too much and hustling in a band'.
If Dilly Dally had any sense at all, they'd take a crash course in physics, devote all their energies to making time travel a reality, and then zip back to 1992, when every major label in America would be promising them the world to sign them to a record deal. With their masses of huge fuzzy guitars and dinosaur-stomp rhythms tagged to tunes that are hum-along poppy and woozily shoegaze-ish at the same time, with semi-comprehensible vocals alternately whispered and screamed over it all, Dilly Dally sound like the great lost grunge-era band, a mix of the Pixies and Hole with a frontwoman just as noisy as Courtney Love but significantly more likable (or at least less threatening). Dilly Dally's first full-length album, 2015's Sore (it even sounds like the title of a grunge-era LP), has more than a few great tunes, including the semi-swaggering "Purple Rage," the noisy but curiously sensuous "Desire," and the quick-stepping "Green," but in the long run this album gets over on sounds rather than songs.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. I was watching the video for the Dilly Dally single 'Candy Mountain' the other day, and as I was scrolling through the comments section, I came across the inevitable "'90s wants their sound back" remark. There's no denying the Toronto four-piece have a sound mostly indebted to the '90s, and as much as people complain about things like "revivalism" and how much newer bands are sounding like older bands, those complaints have by now rendered themselves a little redundant, because just about any up-and-coming band requires a starting point and that often comes from the influence of an older band that has already laid the groundwork for them.
When moves to defund Planned Parenthood attempt to confine female desire, there's something so satisfying about the way Toronto four-piece Dilly Dally's debut just oozes with it. Singer/guitarist Katie Monks' voice is filthy and fleshy, as if the sodden voicebox of Shane McGowan or Pete Doherty had been transplanted into her own healthy 20-something throat. In almost every song, she unleashes a dive-bombing scream that drops like a flare down a well, illuminating the absurdity of mythologizing women's sexuality while also making plain how it feels to carry that burden.
By and large, dilly dallying isn’t particularly productive. It stalls, it procrastinates, it aimlessly dawdles and it enrages power-walking commuters. If there’s one thing clear from this Toronto rabble’s debut album, it’s that they’re at complete odds with their name. Messy and sandpaper-edged Dilly Dally may be, but that’s not the same thing as indecisive.
In an age of Femfresh and facial contouring, Dilly Dally fly the flag for the unvarnished female; propelled by an animalistic hornineness, stomach-rumbling hunger and the moody determination of bratty punk rock. Founded by Toronto-based Katie Monks and Liz Ball, the group’s debut has an explicit, brutalist sound: bludgeoning bass, gnarly guitars and red-raw vocals – like the Pixies with PMT, or perhaps mid-flow, if you’re to take Snake Head literally: “Snakes are coming out of my head / And there’s blood between my legs”). Elsewhere, Monks explores waitress/wife fantasies on Green (“I want you, naked in my kitchen / Makin’ me breakfast”), and Ice Cream is a tale of friendship – or more specifically, of two broke and bummed-out musicians howling for attention (“If I scream, when you scream / They’re not gonna miss us now!”).
Dilly Dally's debut album is a hulking mass of sound that comes crashing down on listeners, a la the Pixies' loud-quiet-loud aesthetic. Standing at ground zero is singer-guitarist Katie Monks, her ragged voice at once vulnerable yet seething with rage, the grounding force for her band mates' cacophonous noise. Dilly Dally are part of a loose collection of Toronto bands reclaiming early '90s punk and noise rock from the clutches of modern rock radio programmers; groups like Odonis and HSY have pushed the needles deep into the red, reminding the city — and anyone else who'll listen — that squalling guitars and well-placed rage once fell under indie rock's wide umbrella too.
The most immediately disarming thing about Dilly Dally isn’t the hellfire guitar tone or the booming drum work. It’s Katie Monks’ voice, a scuffed-up howl descended most directly from Courtney Love but also from Layne Staley, Frank Black, Kurt Cobain — all those singers who heard the harshest grain of their voice not as a flaw but as a weapon. Monks has one hell of a snarl, and hearing her rattle it like so many rusty chains draws Dilly Dally’s debut out of the endless background noise of ‘90s revivalists and into a space where it can thrash around and feel alive.
For Toronto's Dilly Dally, spring awakening sounds less like bees buzzing than like chainsaws revving. The band's leaders, Katie Monks and Liz Ball, are old friends who have zero patience for double standards or sexual frustration. The first track on their killer debut LP alternates between a hush and a mutant assault, driven by Ball's pummeling guitar and Monks' irascible wail, in ways that recall Nirvana's "Rape Me." Indeed, In Utero is a clear touchstone throughout Sore.
It’s rare today to see rock and roll frontwomen of the Kim Gordon, Kathleen Hanna or even Courtney Love ilk, a whirling dervish of unconventional femininity, power and don’t give a fuckery amplified through a prism of electric guitars with attention grabbing ability. However, with debut album Sore landing from Toronto outfit Dilly Dally, we might have found one. Originally an all female outfit consisting of guitarists Katie Monks and Liz Ball, this garage punk force has evolved and gathered momentum with the addition of new bassist Jimmy Tony and drummer Ben Reinhartz, but it's the sheer depth of Monk’s voice that first hits you with this record.
It's no stretch to say Dilly Dally's debut full-length is highly anticipated, especially in local circles. Over the past year, every cool outlet in the blogosphere has been fawning over the flagship band for Toronto's noisy outsider label, Buzz Records. Needless to say, the hype has reached a dangerous level. Which makes it oh so sweet that Sore delivers.