We’re certainly not in Kansas anymore. In this world, there’s not a trace of a girl dressed up like a picnic table tapping her ruby, red heels with the sweetest of dispositions. This is a much different story. This particular Dorothy is the tornado bursting through your ears and a mesmerism of tantalizing fishnet stockings, high-heeled combat boots, a low-cut t-shirt sheathed by a form-fitted leather jacket — all in black — and with a rocker’s voice that the music industry desperately denies it needs.
As far as I’m concerned, rock is dead — for now. This doesn’t mean that musicians aren’t making rock music, or even making good rock music for that matter. It’s more so that the music industry has evolved into a marketing beast that is no longer hyped up on drugs, sex, and rock n’ roll the way it was before the digital age. This new creature feeds off of likes, tweets, insider celebrity gossip, planned late night television stunts, and anything that crosses genres, scales to mobile devices, and can be photoshopped (read: profitable).
Dorothy Martin, lead singer of her band Dorothy, has put together an album entitled, ROCKISDEAD, and essentially gives the middle finger to a world of pop princesses, gender hypocrisy, and the overall concept of rules and regulations. However, just because her brand caters to the uncontrolled riotous rock days of old, doesn’t mean such a case always works out. Let me explain.
Every now and again, the imploding star that is rock music gains a new weapon to its arsenal of kickass singers. As the greats ascend into age, the last decade or so has brought in rockers such as Brett Anderson of The Donnas, and other heavy hitting singers such as Taylor Momsen of The Pretty Reckless and “Lzzy” Hale of Halestorm. Each in their own way have tapped the vein of the raspy, hard rock days of The Runaways.
Majority of the tracks on ROCKISDEAD round out to about three minutes of headbanger rock, foot-stomping tempos, fuzzed-out guitar riffs, and vocals belted through distorted mics a la Jack White. Given that Dorothy is relatively new to the landscape, she has time, and more importantly, the disposition to become a legendary singer despite already releasing an album. Her gospel and blues intuitions heard on tracks such as “Dark Nights” serve her well as the overall sound of the album is less metal than it is gritty blues rock. Songs such as “Whiskey Forever” and “Gun In My Hand” better showcase these southern blues lines, supercharged with aggression and bold declarations, even if the songs themselves aren’t mind-blowing.
Her main single, “Raise Hell” is likely the best track to summarize the album in that it’s empowering, rock-driven, and showcases Dorothy’s impressive vocals. However, it is not the best track overall. “Raise Hell” has commercialism all over it, so much that it is destined to get played out by the likes of heavy-duty truck commercials. In my opinion, the trophy belongs to the song “Medicine Man”. The song has a slow, chain rattling intro reminiscent of Joe Bonamassa’s “The Ballad of John Henry”, but halfway through guitarist DJ Black kicks on the heavy distortion and Dorothy rises to a 50-foot monster as the clouds darken around her. The song takes off. However, more is wanted on ROCKISDEAD than it delivers.
The sound is repetitive and gets old halfway through the record. ROCKISDEAD does not leave much to the imagination, but it certainly doesn’t fail to deliver in some capacity. The lyrics are a little too cliché and similar to the other songs on the album, but I recognize this subjectivism as not all rock can be Led Zeppelin. “Whiskey whiskey whiskey fever / You’re my evil, you’re my evil” taken from “Whiskey Fever” is reminiscent of another rock ode to alcohol. Been there, heard that. “All I gotta say to you is ‘Kiss it baby,’ yeah / Kiss it” from the obvious title, “Kiss It” is a weak phrase to open an album with a cover that shows a girl slicing her tongue with a pair of scissors.
I’m not going to harp too much more on this because she’s consistent in her form. The lyrics are more edgy than poetic, and in this case, it gets the point across. However, the edginess does not pack the punch it may have intended to. Personally, I would like Dorothy to dive off the deep end, channel Robert Plant, and be influenced by the night like Black Sabbath.
But by no means does Dorothy not deliver. Sometimes lyrics need to be simple and not convoluted because the singer is going to make the audience feel it. Her vocals make this album work and is going to give the band a sophomore chance. Unfortunately, Dorothy as a band will not survive on her alone. Her band needs to ramp up their creative juices and go against a three-minute track designed for airwaves and chopped bits for YouTube ads.
Most of the drumming, bass, and guitar tracks on the album are stock audio. I’ve heard it all before. The riffs are cool and the tempo gets you rocking, but it’s too forgettable and doesn’t showcase much in terms of diversity, self-expression, and talent. There is not a true guitar solo on the album and a lot of the songs start off the same way. Still, I’m optimistic about Dorothy. They’ve succeeded in making a buck for their music and garnered a decent sized audience to keep the fire burning; it’s just that the tornado needs more elements to sustain its impact. Dorothy has an opportunity to be more than a tough frontwoman. Her vocal prowess wields the power to expand high beyond that plane if she is surrounded by a band that aspires to put her there.
As a listener and a fan, I don’t want Dorothy to raise a little hell. I want her to drag me there. The industry doesn’t need more perfect, professional vocals, or tight production. I want a menacing, creative vocalist whispering and screaming into my eardrums so much that I pass out from satisfaction. I want her to channel the storm into a dusty, blood sky Armageddon, and in her leather jacket, stockings, and cherry plump lips, round up the wicked and the damned with one crack of her spike-laced lasso, and drag us to hell.
Rock | Roc Nation Records, LLC