As music in general, Dilly Dally’s debut album, Sore, is incredible (not for nothing did it end up appearing on this writer’s Top Ten of 2015 list) – but the vinyl presentation of the album transcends such praise and offers listeners an experience several steps beyond that of the compact disc. It’s unbelievable. It’s a game-changer. Such claims may read as unlikely, but it’s true; the CD pounded listeners to a pulp with a guitar assault which unquestionably came from the school of Riot grrrl and each song featured a sense of reckless abandon courtesy of Katie Monks’ “pushed to the point gasping, rasping and choking” vocal performance, but the vinyl mix offers more than just that. Here, other sounds which must have been either buried in the mix or were simply obscured behind the wall of distorted guitars are suddenly more audible and apparent, and the sense of delicacy which comes with them betrays a better sense of craft which gives each song another dimension to inhabit/examine.
The difference between the CD presentation of Sore and the vinyl one is manifest as soon as “Desire” opens the album although, granted it takes a minute to realize it. “Desire” still slams in with an aural assault that is almost tangible as it opens (read: “the song hits so hard that it threatens to take listeners clean off their feet”) but, when it does, listeners will be able to notice a beautiful, clean-toned and almost dream-like guitar part coasting in above the mania. It’s remarkable; above the troubled sea of guitar and bass parts, the concussive drums and Katie Monks’ gut-wrenching vocal, here’s this meandering little affectation which seems disconnected but fascinating all at once. Those who have heard the album before will have to lift the needle and play “Desire” twice to really get a sense of what they’ve just heard and how it relates to what they already knew about both the song and th band, because it will have thrown them completely off balance.
After that first shock, listeners who know will already be looking for some subtle differences in the songs as they play through, and they will definitely be able to find a few. While slight, “Ballin’ Chain” plays airier here than it did on its CD counterpart – the arrangement of the song doesn’t seem so tightly packed as it did before – which doesn’t cause the song to lose any power but does make it more accessible somehow, and opens the gates wide for “Snake Head” to slither in and batter listeners around the head and shoulders with a dayglo baton before “The Touch” shifts gears again into a closer-to-street-punk speed.
As was the case on the CD version of Sore, the vinyl version of “The Touch” is the closest approximation to a pop song that Dilly Dally permits in this run-time but, on vinyl, the song still seems to play a little differently. The song actually feels a little more “Sixites” or “psychedelic”; Liz Ball’s guitars ring as though they were recorded in a long, ceramic tile-festooned hallway or restroom (such sounds also appeared on The Cult’s more classic albums) and Monks’ eases off on overworking her clearly already ravaged throat and focuses ever-so-slightly more on melody. The reprieve is a welcome one in that it proves Dilly Dally is capable of doing more than just one thing on Sore, but it also leaves a couple of doors open for other compositional ideas for the band to develop later – if they so choose. Those possibilities get shelved to let “Next Gold” sear some senses as it closes the side, but they prove not to be gone too far as the album’s B-side takes the chance to delve in a bit.
Some of those developments begin to appear as soon as “Purple Rage” opens the album’s B-side. Here, the song very simply does not feel as though it is possessed of the same sort of punch that the CD presentation did; rather, it feels ever-so-slightly-better refined – like the aesthete’s answer to the more working class CD arrangement. In fact, “Purple Rage” as it exists on vinyl is another in the series of great examples of previously unrecognized subtlety which appear on the vinyl version of Sore; a nervous-sounding vocal performance from Monks calls to mind Black Francis of The Pixies, and Ball’s guitars make that comparison totally unavoidable, as do the song’s loud/soft dynamics. The final result is a real eye-opener for any listener, even those who went front-to-back with the A-side of Sore. There were hints that Dilly Dally had more adventurous ideas in them than just what the A-side required, but this first song on the B-side makes it plain and, because they must know they’re onto something, Dilly Dally just keeps running with it. Next, the band absorbs and contorts the spirit of Cowboy Junkies for the positively dim and methodical “Get To You,” and then pines for domestic bliss which doesn’t really look like it’s coming in “Green” before veering at least sort of close to pop again for the perfectly sweet “Ice Cream.” The tempos don’t exactly represent the speed at which the record moves from point to point, but those listening will feel totally exhilarated by the movements made through the record. Because of those jumps too, they’ll welcome the genuinely chilly, echo-touched piano which colors “Burned By The Cold” and rest easy with it as the song sputters the album to a close.
Now, it’s important to point out that the B-side isn’t a complete departure in form from the Riot grrrl grunge which introduced the group on Sore’s A-side – the sludgier aspects of that are still important structural points on the periphery here – but there’s no question that this band is still developing; the changes are evident here as one rolls from front-to-back of this album and, because it happens to fluidly, leaves the possibility that Dilly Dally ma not even sort of be the same band as that which created Sore when they return with a follow-up album. That said, while this album is awesome, perhaps the coolest thing about it is that it leaves the chance of being a completely different entity on the table at the end; there’s no way to know what might come next, and that’s really exciting.