Release Date: Apr 27, 2018
Record label: Carpark Records
Seven years into their career, now seems as good a time as any for Speedy Ortiz to make their next step up. You get the impression that Sadie Dupuis and company know that as well, with their third album Twerp Verse taking a good three years to appear after previous record Foil Deer. The reason for the delay was that the band scrapped most of the initial recording sessions after the election of Donald Trump as President.
Speedy Ortiz have never been shy about being politically active. Their feminist undercurrents came to the fore on 2015's Foil Deer, and they've released singles and tracks to benefit causes like climate change, women's rights, and immigration. Despite their abundant awareness, the political climate in the U.S. changed so quickly after Foil Deer's release that the bandmembers scrapped the material they'd been working on in favor of songs that felt more relevant to the Trump era.
Speedy Ortiz have always been a band with an established knack for turning the personal political, presenting cutting social dissections through the lens of kaleidoscopic, surreal worlds. New album 'Twerp Verse' is every bit as fantastical, too; this time through its deft manipulation of language. Approaching her lyricism like a guest (or twerp) verse across the entire record, Sadie Dupuis piles in the witty linguistic tricks like her time could be up at any second; bizarre flips of familiar idioms and peculiar peeks of complex imagery with a poetic bent shaping the entire creation.
Sadie Dupuis would have been a natural pop star. With her clear, sweet voice and a high-watt smile, the Speedy Ortiz singer and guitarist has the kind of aesthetic that makes big-name song doctors and major-label record executives twitch with avarice. Yet Dupuis is no mass-market ingenue. Despite toying with a glossy pop sound on "Get a Yes," an anthem to consent from her 2016 solo record Slugger, she has a punky subversive streak that shines through in her work with Speedy Ortiz.
If you've followed this four-piece out of Massachusetts since their inception, the steady growth they've shown as a band shouldn't be lost on you. Way back in 2013, when they released their aforementioned debut, Speedy Ortiz piqued immediate interest with their blend of big ultra fuzzed-out riffs and spindly, needly guitar work, and the loud-soft dynamic that the two elements naturally birthed. Think a mix between noise rock behemoths Dinosaur Jr.
Sadie Dupuis has a knack for flipping the aperçu into self-fulfilling prophecy. "I'm blessed with perfect pitch/I waste it on songs that you never even heard of," the singer-guitarist taunts on Twerp Verse. Even better is: "You hate the title but you're diggin' the song," which isn't actually prophetic because you can praise without equivocation Speedy Ortiz's flair for the splendid title--this is a band whose digital self-released debut sported "Kinda Blew" and "Phish Phood." Tense, knotted, suspicious of climaxes, their third official album is the right album at the right time for them.
Seven years removed from Yuck's self-titled debut, and while the 90s alt-rock revival isn't dead, it's no longer able to subsist on nostalgia. If a band wants to make an impression beyond reminding listeners where their smears of distortion and angsty lyrics originated from, they need to be focused and put themselves in the shoes of a fan hungry for something at least somewhat inspired. Otherwise, they'll produce something as forgettable as the last Bully album.
With the success of their previous album Foil Deer, Speedy Ortiz seemed to conclusively cross over from having been a band beloved by a discerning but rabid relatively few into being a big deal. Whereas Major Arcana, the first record most people heard from them fizzed with a taut intensity, there was something more ambitious, more cinematic in scope, on Foil Deer which widened the arc of its popularity but meant that, for some listeners at least, something of what had made the band, fronted by Sadie Dupuis, so special in the first place was lost. So, the release of Twerp Verse finds the quartet, rounded out by Darl Ferm, Andy Molholt, and Mike Falcone, at something of a crossroads: which way to turn? Towards immediacy and further popularity or to return to their primary modus operandi of chordal, melodic, and harmonic intricacy all smothered in glorious layers of fuzz.
For Sadie Dupuis - one of slacker rock's most thought-provoking and observant wordsmiths - the idea of taking an artistically safe route is an offensive one. The Speedy Ortiz songwriter, vocalist and guitarist initially wrote the band's third album in 2015, but on November 8 2016, Donald Trump was elected US president and the world got a hell of a lot uglier; suddenly those self-described "lovey dovey" songs seemed insipid, almost incongruous. Making the difficult decision to scrap it, the Massachusetts four-piece went back to the drawing board.
Twerp Verse by Speedy Ortiz Everything about Speedy Ortiz throws a curve, from the wandering serpentine melodies, to the slanted (and sometimes enchanted) slacker guitar dual guitar lines that feint and slink and butt into each other, to the elegant knottiness of the verbiage, which tussles with hard intergender problems with a wink and a literate misdirection. This is only the third album from Sadie Dupuis' Speedy Ortiz, and if it's seems like she's been around for longer, that is likely because of all the short-form recording she has done in between, two demo recordings, three EPs and 11 singles. Along the way, she's had a few guitar players, Matt Robidoux, Devin McKnight and now, for this album, Andy Monholt of the Philadelphia lo-fi pop outfit Laser Background.
When Northampton indie rockers Speedy Ortiz announced "Twerp Verse," they revealed that a previous attempt at a new record had been discarded after the 2016 election left them wanting to write something more politically engaged. That announcement, along with the poppy lead single "Lucky 88," set the table for "Twerp Verse" to pick up where the synths-and-social-justice cocktail of "Slugger," bandleader Sadie Dupuis's 2016 album as Sad13, left off. Rather than abandon their gnarled '90s-indie roots, however, Speedy Ortiz has opted to combine the two aesthetics in a hybrid as catchy and incisive in parts as it is frustratingly obtuse in others.