Punk firebrand Brody Dalle branches out on her solo debut

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From the July 24, 2014 edition

In the midst of “Carry On,” one of the standout cuts on Brody Dalle’s excellent solo debut Diploid Love, the raspy-voiced singer announces, “I’m getting closer to something.”

It’s a defining moment on an exploratory album that finds Dalle branching out both musically (the longtime punk ditches her three-chord tendencies and incorporates a wider range of musical textures and colors) and thematically, turning her focus towards some of life’s bigger questions.

“It’s about the world we live in,” said Dalle, 35, who visits A&R Music Bar for a concert on Friday, July 25. “They’re questions we all ponder. What are we? Why are we here? How did we get here? Who made us? Where are we going? People are insane. People are wonderful. Life is crazy. There are two types of people in this world: people who want to create something really beautiful and people who want to destroy things. I want to create wonderful, amazing, beautiful things.”

That’s not to suggest the musician, best known for her stints in The Distillers and Spinnerette, has completely mellowed, and there are still a handful of tunes here where she defiantly takes a flamethrower to her surroundings. “I’m gonna burn this city down,” she growls on the melodic punk burner “Rat Race,” sounding like a woman content to watch the skyline dissolve into ash.

Even so, Dalle generally strikes a more optimistic tone on Diploid — “I’ll always love you forever,” she offers amidst the machine thrum of “Meet the Foetus/Oh the Joy,” a euphoric take on the joys of motherhood — and there’s a sense throughout she finally sees brighter days ahead.

“We all have our ups and downs, and sometimes the downs can be pretty dark, where you’re not really sure you’re going to make it out,” she said. “But I believe that you do. Music is my salvation. It saved my life and put me on this path.”

Despite Dalle’s increasingly hopeful outlook, she was initially hesitant to delve into a solo project, owing in large part to a long-held fascination with tightknit rock groups like The Ramones and The Go-Go’s.

“It’s something I fought for a really long time because I always wanted to be in a band, a gang, but I’ve just come to accept that’s how it is right now,” said the musician and mother of two children (both of whom appear in a recorded snippet incorporated into “I Don’t Need Your Love”). “I don’t really have enough time on my hands to mess around with trying to start a band. It’s pretty much about time management. It forced me into being a solo artist.”

The singer’s musical expansion happened far more naturally by contrast. Though she’s long hewed to her punk roots — “[The Distillers and Spinnerette] lived in that punk-rock box, and didn’t really stray from it,” she said — her musical interests have always been far more varied, running the gamut from jazz singer Billie Holliday to the hardcore British punks in Discharge. It’s a diversity reflected in Diploid, which veers comfortably from horn-driven rumblers (the massive, crushing “Underworld”) to comparatively quiet turns like “I Don’t Need Your Love,” a staggering, string-and-piano-kissed number whose hazy atmosphere mirrors a humid summer day.

“I’ve never really done anything like that on a record, but it’s nothing to be afraid of,” she said of the mellower turn. “I grabbed it by the balls and ran with it.”

Whether belting her way through an atmospheric ballad or ripping up asphalt, Dalle continually expresses a desire to press onward. She strides confidently forward on the electro-charged “Carry On” (“I am read to be free from the past,” she sings, “Let it all go and move on”), and when she offers “I’ve come so far” in “Dressed in Dreams” the unspoken implication is she still has much farther to go.

“I don’t think I’m at the end. There’s plenty of road left, as far as I’m concerned, and most of it is uncharted,” Dalle said. “I’m pretty busy, so I really don’t have time to stop and think about things. My life is very proactive. I know I sound like an acne commercial, but it is. I’m always moving.”