From the opening moments of ‘Desire’, Katie Monks establishes her voice with a count-in that might be for technical purposes, but really it just throws her vocals right in the face from the off. It would be stupid not to recognise Monks’ voice as one of the key incentives to Dilly Dally’s music. She’s purposefully sloppy, she slurs, she drags her syllables out of timing until it sounds like Monks is playing to her own sound and her own song. But it works. Comparisons to both Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love aside, Monks is a formidable presence on her own; her screams are hollow and guttural on ‘Ballin’ Chain’ and she can tone it down to a slurred delivery on ‘Desire’. It would also be wrong to disregard the rest of Dilly Dally. Liz Ball, the lead guitarist, is capable of some Sonic-Youth-worthy lines, such as on ‘Purple Rage’ or ‘Witch Man’, which has a solo ripped straight from the 90s alt-rock-manual. The band pull together for something special, putting their influences on show and also providing tortured, journal-like lyricism.
When Katie Monks has the opportunity to throw her weight around with the full backing of the band behind her then Dilly Dally excel. ‘Desire’, the first single and definitive anthem of Dilly Dally is a mixture of all of the best bits of the band. The verses consist of some of the sweetest vocals and lyrics Monks has written yet as she discovers the aggression behind any kind of longing. She sings ‘chocolate legs dangling from the ceiling again’ and ‘It’s calling on me lately’ as the band pulls together behind her for what is most likely to be their ‘hit’. It has a ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ anti-anthemicness about it, like a reluctant success. The hits follow through on songs like ‘Green’ or ‘Ballin’ Chain’, with the former being an early single and the latter being a new song. In fact, Dilly Dally don’t want to erase their early songs from their catalogue, ‘Next Gold’ was also their first release. The absence of the slow burners ‘Candy Mountain’ or ‘Alexander’ suggests that Dilly Dally only wanted to put out their most aggressive songs. Granted, aggression suits them well, but the likes of ‘Candy Mountain’ contain the same teenage longing and anger at a slower pace.
Don’t think every song on here is a short, spiky punk thrash. ‘Get To You’ has echoes of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Show Your Bones in its atmospheric tremolo playing. Monks growls ‘But I’m still trying’ in the chorus, repeated again and again with sweet backing vocals ‘To get to you’ trying their hardest to mismatch the grungey guitars. Dilly Dally love mixing sweet with sour on Sore, from the sickly album cover and Monks occasionally heartfelt lyrics with something much darker from the instrumentation and her voice. It feels like a tribute to Riot Grrrl if anything, which took a lot of fun from pasting their fanzines in glitter and colour, but what the bands were speaking about was the exact opposite. It was gritty and real and dark, and that’s the exact same thing Dilly Dally are doing here. ‘Green’ is probably their biggest example of this. The opening lyrics ‘I want you / naked in my kitchen / making me breakfast’ is simple, bordering on conscious dullness. However, that’s completely upturned by the chorus of ‘Cause I need food and I need light / And I need you / Just because my heart is clean doesn’t mean it’s new’. It’s a killer lyric, partly because it’s so simple but complex at the same time. Monks delivers it like it’s just another line, but it’s the most emotional she gets. When the rawness gets exposed, it’s gruesome but it’s eye-opening.
The album rarely dives into slumps, aside maybe from a couple tracks here and there (only ‘The Touch’ and ‘Ice Cream’ spring to mind). The band consistently plays well, with Liz Ball’s screaming lines visible over Monks grungey power chords and Benjamin Reinhartz’ drumming just about passing for ‘maniac’. If you need a perfect example of the band all at work at once, ‘Ballin’ Chain’ is probably your go-to track. Monks’ ungodly scream at the end of the track tops off her song about dragging someone around like a ball and chain but her chorus ‘I miss you, I miss you, I miss you’ says something entirely different, but it makes sense in Monks’ world of opinions that can’t make their mind up and end up next to each other, contradicting each other. It’s confused and fuzzy, but hey, that’s rock, right?
After releasing so many good singles up to this point, there was always the risk that Sore would make Dilly Dally a singles band more than a full-length band. Fortunately, that isn’t true at all as Sore is the most complete Dilly Dally have ever sounded. They make teen poetry and grunge obsession sound like it could actually work. Monks’ presence is both what grounds Dilly Dally and makes them fly off the leash every now and again like on ‘Desire’, ‘Ballin’ Chain’ or ‘Green’. They can easily pull back and withdraw to a dangerous animal in the corner or simply attack from the off and that dynamic is missing from all-aggression punk. The vulnerability is tangible and makes them human and it also makes an amazing record.
Funnel Recommends: Desire / Ballin’ Chain / Green