Be careful what you wish for, as the old adage puts it. Dilly Dally‘s 2015 debut album Sore was an unqualified success, being met with enthusiastic reviews and garnering a loyal army of fans. Yet that very success seemingly brought with it a whole new set of tensions – and by the time the band had finished touring Sore around the world, they were on the verge of implosion.
It’s a situation obliquely referred to in the video for the album’s first single I Feel Free, in which singer Katie Monks prowls around a cemetery before exhuming coffins containing her three bandmates and a white Flying V guitar – it was this guitar that Monks composed Heaven on, and it’s true to say that there’s a sense of rebirth if not reinvention coursing through the veins of Heaven.
The reference points remain the same though – huge, shuddering guitar riffs redolent of the early-mid ’90s of Seattle, and some deceptively gentle melodies underneath the noise. What stands out most of all though is Monks’ remarkable voice, which can go from a whisper to a scream in a blink of an eye. It’s a voice that, like all the best rock vocals, could be described as ‘lived-in’, with Monks conjuring up all manner of emotions with sometimes just a simple sigh.
The aforementioned I Feel Free is a soaring opening track that sticks to the classic ‘quiet-loud-quiet’ template but still manages to sound bang up to date, with lyrics that reference the band’s internal squabbles, but with a determination to move forward – “we’ll start again in a moment of silence, still couldn’t be friends, but I want you to find what might make sense” runs one telling line. As the track builds up to a cacophony of noise, it’s impossible not to be excited at what’s to come.
And what’s to come is nothing less than some very fine pop-rock songs. Monks has a superb pop sensibility to her songwriting and knows exactly how to craft a chorus – Doom has an grind and groove to it that recalls Nevermind-era Nirvana, and the stand-out Sober Motel (written about bassist Jimmy Tony’s struggles with addiction) boasts an uplifting ode to sobriety underneath some blistering guitar riffs. The swirl of Sorry Ur Mad meanwhile, just demands to be listened to loud.
Lyrically, it’s a uplifting, upbeat listen – in a similar way that bands like Idles preach positive thinking and self-care on their remarkable Joy Is An Act Of Resistance album, so Dilly Dally do likewise on tracks like Believe (“believe in yourself, cause that’s all that matters”) while the magnificent Marijuana, sounding like the Pixies at their absolute peak, manages to sooth and exhilarate in equal manner.
It’s also the sort of album that never threatens to outstay its welcome, clocking in at just nine tracks and 34 minutes long – so, as soon as the last chiming chords of the title track have faded away, you’re all ready to head back to I Feel Free. If anything, Heaven is even better than their debut: what a relief that Dilly Dally managed to put any remaining tensions to bed before making this exceptional album.