Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted hit the streets 21 years ago. I’ll repeat that, 21 years ago. That means that the godfathers of noise-pop’s breakthrough disc is old enough to drink in the bars where it’s on the jukebox. That also means that it’s had plenty of time to stew in the cultural consciousness, and inspire legions of arty, indie kids. Four of those kids make up the band Speedy Ortiz—and yes, their “official” website is a LiveJournal.
They may be inspired by the indie sounds of the Clinton-era, but the Massachusetts band make it their own. For one thing, Speedy Ortiz leader Sadie Dupuis is an honest-to-goodness poet who’s studied at ivy-covered bastions of northeastern learning like M.I.T. (where she studied math first, then poetry) and Barnard. When she’s not touring rock clubs, house parties and basement punk shows in Speedy Ortiz, Dupuis also currently attends the University of Massachusetts Amherst where’s she’s getting her MFA in poetry. The former New Yorker has a pretty tidy rock ‘n’ roll educational background as well. She spent some time in the all-female Pavement cover band Babement as well as Brooklyn indie experimentalists Quilty. After Quilty called it a day, Dupuis called on a new group of musos (Matt Robidoux on guitar, drummer Mike Falcone, and Darl Ferm on bass) to help her flesh out some songs she had been demoing on her own. On the strength of the sludgy, sweet-n-sour single “Taylor Swift,” Speedy Ortiz landed on Carpark Record’s roster, and earlier this month, the label issued Speedy’s debut full-length Major Arcana.
Dupuis’ background in poetry serves her very well on her tunes. She has acid-tongued wit, and a knack for phrasing. She wraps words like “On my mouth is a factory for every toxic part of speech I spew,” on “Tiger Tank,” around the dense wall of guitars and drums with deft skill. There’s a teeth-grinding hesitation to Dupuis’ delivery on the song, like she’s holding back an ocean of torment. It’s unsettling, and when the band kicks in, the dam bursts. But it’s not quite the catharsis you would expect. By the end, you still feel the nervous restlessness. It’ll get your blood up. If Dupuis was after the angsty feel of sounds past, then mission accomplished.