Heaven may not sound especially revolutionary, but it quickly works its way into your mind to become an unforgettable experience.
Of the plethora of young bands reviving the sounds of ‘90s rock (both of the indie and mainstream variety), few have done so with the intensity of Dilly Dally. Their debut album Sore was an ass-kicker of a rock record, a startling recreation of sounds that seemed infused with a new sense of purpose driven through the incredible vocal performances of Katie Monks. Their style was so crystalized and perfect that it was inevitable that Heaven, the band’s latest album, wouldn’t stray too far from what had come before. After all, why break a good rhythm just for the sake of doing so? Though the band’s edges are as sharpened as ever, Heaven stands out by being a bizarrely positive record. Here, Dilly Dally passes through dark times and find, if not a light at the end of the tunnel, then a reason to soldier on.
It must be emphasized that there is, in fact, darkness and tension that permeates Heaven, even if it isn’t an explicit downer of a record. Monks has gone on record in saying that recording Heaven was a struggle and that personal issues almost led to the dissolution of the band before the album even came out. The world around them has had some effect, as well: the cutting lines of “Sober Motel” ring truer when one considers the destructive allure that alcohol has in the young music scenes from which Dilly Dally rose. (Not that Monks is against all controlled substances, though; “Marijuana” largely focuses on the positive effects of the titular drug.) Still, the conflicts on Heaven are largely internal or interpersonal; we get a glimpse inside Monks’ head as she works out the past few years of turmoil. Opener “I Feel Free” seems to throw the listener into Monks’ inner monologue as she sorts through the years of hurt: “Still couldn’t be friends, but I want you to find me when I make sense/ Man, cause this already hurt you back then.” Her words are open-ended enough that they could be external instead of internal, but they work as the beginning of the transformative journey that’s happening here.
There’s a further balancing act performed by the band throughout Heaven as they play. Sore was charming in how rough around the edges it was, but Heaven is arguably more impressive in the balance it strikes between refined and loose. Not once does the band sound so polished that they lose what made them interesting in the first place, but the songs also sound like complete, finished music rather than grungy jams that came apart at the seams. Furthermore, the band starts with everything set to maximum volume and rarely gives space to breathe, something which many bands attempt but Dilly Dally execute to perfection. Even when things slow to a relative dirge, as they do for some of the album’s more contemplative second half, the vibrant energy present in the band’s attack (and, it must be said, in Monks’ reliably impressive vocals) never dissipates. Monks’ words may tell a story of self-actualization and survival, but the entire band does the heavy lifting in making that story much more of a visceral reality.
There’s a lot that’s remarkable about Heaven. The fact that it got made is something of a minor miracle, but it also maintains a positive outlook without sinking into empty, rah-rah platitudes. For a band so relatively young, Dilly Dally carry themselves with even more assurance than the bands from which they were influenced by. Heaven may not sound especially revolutionary, but it quickly works its way into your mind to become an unforgettable experience.