College Rock. You know, Indie Rock’s grandpa – Alternative Rock’s daddy? America’s Northeast begot some of the stranger, darker, fiercer bands hitting the “mainstream,” so to speak, of that subgenre – Dinosaur Jr, Throwing Muses, Sebadoh, to name a few. Speedy Ortiz, hailing from Northampton, Mass, right in the midst of this hotbed, wear these influences shamelessly on their sleeve, though the band has decried the notion that they are a throwback and resist, if not outright reject, the tag of “retro.”
Well, for better or worse, their sound unmistakably hearkens back to that era and specific cadre of bands. However, it would be criminal to dismiss Speedy as derivative; while they clearly reflect their influences, they are a variable amalgam of them – as literate as Stephen Malkmus or Kristin Hersh, but less esoteric; they brood like Sebadoh, but cheerier; they’re as capable of tearing the roof off as Dinosaur Jr, but exhibit more restraint.
In the same vein as last year’s debut, lead lady Sadie DuPuis lyrically tends toward the elliptical, sometimes brutal, and often playful, if not overtly humorous. With Real Hair, it seems she’s primarily conveying her thorough confusion and near-desperation over what makes a suitable boyfriend – the whole he’s bad and I know I shouldn’t like him but I do and vice versa conundrum. It’s a well-worn theme, and a fantastic one to explore in song – here, much of what she says make little sense, but DuPuis’ linguistic wordplay and struggle between her lovesick and don’t-give-a-shit sides are just too damn fun to really make that a concern. One of Sadie’s silly friends ends up “strap-down crazy” in a “web of bees,” on “American Horror.” Nibble on her sweet and salty plea of “be in this picture, this picture with me,” she coos to the manorexic dude she later regretfully calls “bonebag” on “Oxygal.” How about the way she’s totally on to that poser on “Everything’s Bigger” for whom “it’s hard to keep a dialect when you keep changing where you come from.” That hot piece of bad boy waiter ass on “Shine Theory?” The poor girl “wants to want him so bad, but can’t recognize the charms that he has.”
Maybe you’re not the type to get your jollies from linguistics, I get that. So, slouch down on that sofa, enveloped in your oversized hoody, and suck on Speedy’s sonic candy. The band alternately broods and roars, favoring loping, bass-heavy verses torn open by fuzzy, full-throttle choruses, while always maintaining a distinct melodicism. Real Hair retains all these hallmarks from prior outings, though tinted a shade more poppy – think early Weezer if you need a reference point. Personally, I eat this stuff up like those caramels with the cream in the center – mainly, because it’s sweet and familiar. No, it’s not new at all – which I hate to tell Speedy – but, so what? Comfort food is dubbed so for a reason, and Real Hair’s got my belly delightfully full.