While it’s tempting to reduce Massachusetts-based noise pop quartet Speedy Ortiz to the novelty of a tribute band, given their obvious fealty to canonical 90’s alternative/indie rock acts like Pavement, the Pixies, Sonic Youth, Sebadoh, Liz Phair and Dinosaur Jr., you can’t help but get swept along by the group’s incredible
command of their influences. The wiry slack rock of their 2013 debut album Major Arcana
sounded both nostalgically familiar and thrillingly fresh, bristling with energy.
There appears to be a cynicism and seriousness that got retroactively projected on every band from this era (at least from detractors) and lead singer/songwriter Sadie Dupuis seems extremely aware of this fact. Her songwriting brings out the quaking waves of energy and rich emotional storytelling that fueled the best of the 90s underground scene without dragging along any weary fatalism. Frankly, it’s hard not to just sit and admire the literacy and beauty of her lyrics on the page, which deftly weave tales of emotional trauma together with wry reflection and biting commentary.
Their most recent release, the Real Hair EP,
released this past February, takes the noodly down-tempo guitars of their auspicious debut and blows them up by several orders of magnitude. This provides Dupuis with a bolder canvas to craft more complex harmonies and poetic, abstracted lyrics that still resonate with dreamy washes of feeling. For instance, when she coos the gimlet sharp, gender swapping line from “Everything’s Bigger”: “Me, I’m just like my wife/ She’s a blade and I’m a dull knife / Turned up in a bouquet.”
Regardless of one’s yearning for an alt-rock age now passed, Speedy Ortiz have emerged over the past 18 months as a confident, inventive, guitar-driven band with a firmly established (and understood) aesthetic. Without getting too caught up in any rockist arguments, they are a rare breed in this current era of underground music. Tickets are available now at Ticketfly.
(1306 East Carson Street, South Side, www.smiling-moose.com)