With singer/guitarist Sadie Dupuis’s quirky, androgynous lilt – both tough and untouchable and more wry than the bread – Speedy Ortiz have been unavoidably compared to 90s superstars like Pavement and Liz Phair. But where some bands stitch together a hollow 90s-hero sound on little more than scraps of plaid and hints of hidden hurt, the Boston-by-way-of-Brooklyn foursome take the style of recent yesteryear and add the thing we most miss: some funny, fucked up shit.
From Sadie singing about getting her dick sucked on the reg to a really brutal song called “Cash Cab” and the sweetest sing-a-long sound I’ve ever heard applied to the phrase “freaking the fuck out,” Speedy Ortiz spit out about the bad times and twist each loogie into an endearingly self-conscious chuckle. Stuck in the thick, somewhat threatening and so entrancing tunes of her three amigos, Sadie’s lyrics fit perfect, cutting the difference between cute-by-contrast and cut-throat. “I wanted you like a ghost wants revenge,” she sings in “Casper (1995)”, both terrifying and touchingly childish – a reminder of the last Growing Pains before the second millennium. “Hitch” gets even more sweet and sour as Sadie’s signature salty edge cuts through humming, girly backing vocals.
But Sadie considers “No Below” the sappiest from Major Arcana. Telling the story of the first big deal and young-one humiliations to a current life-changer, “No Below” takes the taunts and turns them into a soothing tale of making it to now. With an insanely catchy riff and an anti-melodic ripping solo that pings back and forth at high frequency, “No Below” is no tear-jerker, but it’s certainly sentimental.
On the other side of their sound, “Gary” gets heavy, talking about half-grown kids and slamming sludge down your throat. The song blasts so hard its heart stops in the middle, but it revives just as fucking pissed for a grand finale of power chords. In one of the best moments of Major Arcana, Sadie sings about an “adult situation” and repeats, “You picked a virgin over me” over and over. Girl fury, baby. Hell hath no and heaven has too many.
Though each tune is stuck in epic, crushing chords, every song off Speedy Ortiz’s full length debut is a downer that makes you want to scream – a nerve you want to bite and a memory you thought you’d forgotten. Give me more.