Sandy Dillon - Pull the Strings

2006-03-30 12:40

Emotional adversity negates the need for ideas to be dressed up nicely. The general conceit of true independent music is that music need not be defined by "beautiful" people with "beautiful" voices. Sandy Dillon proves a worthy exponent of this philosophy. To put it bluntly, those used to the sweet and calculated tones of modern pop radio will be not be impressed. They may even be permanently put off anything with Ms. Dillon's name attached

Pull the Strings takes a musical cross-country route that passes by the old gospel blues barn, snakes through the dark woods of post punk melancholy, and opens out into the field of new avante-garde instrumentation. It is no easy listen for the unadventurous. This is "further listening" for fans of Tom Waits, and at a stretch Henry Rollins; for Patti Smith and dark Bad Seeds followers. Hell, even a Diamanda Galas fetishist with a hankering for some country might buy into it.

On the surface, the songs are about ordinary things... unrealised dreams lamented ("Broken Promises"); euphoria ("I Fell in Love"); romantic rivalry ("Documents"); and so on... but the narrative structures are less cliched, the voices employed less friendly; and the musical experience less patronising to the listener.

The stunningly beautiful "Why", a duet with Robert Love (Alabama 3), should move you to tears if you can identify with the sincerity of Dillon's gravelly, toothless hag rant blended with Love's baritone drawl. All of this is only accompanied by a lone harmonium-esque instrument.

Or perhaps the gospel-structured "Who's Answering?" will connect as it asks: "Jesus, What become of Me?"; along with a request to "Give me a lover, a bed and some gin/ I beg the one who's answering."

Despite an uncompromisingly jarring opening title track, the album scores near perfect in its middle third. That's about right, as it is Dillon's seventh album, and in those moments the maturity of the artist shows. Those four or five tracks are probably reason enough to score the album highly.

But be warned: this is not for you if you think James Blunt is the beginning and end of all music as we know it. Tell your friends about this, and as Dillon herself exclaims on "Carnival of Dreams": "They're all gonna laugh at you!"

- Anton Marshall

* What is MRSA?

A few years ago, Sandy Dillon contracted MRSA* while hospitalised. If you can imagine what it feels like to contract a bug that eats away your skin, you might have an idea of the sort of emotional whiplash that fleshes out Pull The Strings.

Ms D. 2006/03/08 11:44 AM
The *real* crazy chick Sandy Dillon is nuts. If you love her you're an SD freek. If you don't she's like aural sandpaper. Great stuff because i'm so sick of music that is neutral wallpaper churned out to a formula, even when it is well done.
Michael 2006/03/08 2:22 PM
Is this an early April Fool's Joke? I have enjoyed snorting diet coke up my nose more than listening to these clips. I enjoy 'off the beaten track' music, but it has to be MUSICAL. Anything else in recorded history
Lula 2006/03/08 3:45 PM
I'm confused now Isn't all coke diet coke? Kate Moss certainly would argue it is... no seriously now seriously now, perhaps the clips being only 20kbps makes the sound less pleasant than on CD? Matthew Van Der Want and Chris Letcher - Bignity
Cow 2006/03/08 3:55 PM
Michael - hehehe Well, he did say it wasn't for everyone, diet coke or not - har har har. I thought it was musical, though. But then agin I used to like Diamanda Galas, so I guess the reference is accurate. Can't stop laughing at Michael's comment. Funny. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - The Boatman's Call
Devotee 2006/03/08 9:14 PM
Guess GOOD MUSIC IS relative...and there will always be $$$ grabbing posers! Dang dis was kaka.......I mean, Diversity and world music and all that aside......I LIKE experimental.....ala the classic 4AD and Mute stuff.....This Mortal Coail etc.....but THIS IS BADDDDDDDDDD!!!!....It aint even 'provocative', or 'daring'......its just PRETENTIOUS and AWFUL!!!!....YUCK!!! Anything by FSoL, Front242, Depeche Mode, NIN, KMFDM, Kraftwerk, Brian Eno, Royksopp, Bjork
Devotee 2006/03/08 9:18 PM
Oh, and she sounds like a TERMINALLY constipated MACY GRAY Darrrrrrrrrn woman....let GO of that TURD......thats it, U can do it........go on , yes U can........aaarrrggghhhhhhh!!!! Relief?....Now go away and stop pretending U 'making avant garde music' :-) DaftPunk, Daft Club
Jim 2006/03/09 9:25 AM
Classic!! This comment board just gets more hilarious... Devotee says in one breath that he finds Dillon "Pretentious"... and then recommends "all the classic 4ad stuff" like This Mortal Coil, Nine Inch Nails, and Royksopp! You can't write that kind of comedy... well actually Devotee just did. Diamanda Galas - Plague Mass
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