Singer Sadie Dupuis comes out fighting on a brilliantly seething third album
“You never knew me, man, not even a fraction”, seethes Sadie Dupuis, atop a knot of corkscrewing guitars on ‘Raise The Skates’, the second track on Speedy Ortiz’ third album. It’s a sentiment never far from the Massachusetts songwriter’s lips throughout ‘Foil Deer’, spat more venomously each time. “The me you knew, that was some other me”, the 26-year-old sings on ‘My Dead Girl’, remembering a former self with a “brain like a sphinx but nails like a prom queen” who spent an unhappy adolescence striving to be what others wanted her to be (“picking my teeth, lurking in the shadows of the party lights”).
The follow-up to the quartet’s acclaimed 2013 breakout album ‘Major Arcana’, ‘Foil Deer’ sees Dupuis draw an emphatic line under her past ache for acceptance, angling her angst into sharp bursts of wiry college rock targeting the “riddle-rousing cowards” who made her that way. It’s lyrically dark and has the musical aggression to back it up: only ‘Swell Content’, the record’s sunny pop-punk centrepiece, and scrappy Pavement-ish jangler ‘Dvrk Wvrld’ manage to steer clear of Slint-like gloom.
The rest, from gothy hip-hop groover ‘Puffer’, to the horror movie shreds of ‘Homonovus’, is choked by a blackness that ‘Major Arcana’ only alluded to. The band lost a guitarist between the two albums – Matt Robidoux, who quit in what seemed to be acrimonious circumstances, with Dupuis recently telling Spin magazine, “We haven’t really talked to him since.” His replacement, Devin McKnight, is just as adept, though, as he and Dupuis, who also plays guitar, entwine gnarled melodies like ivy vines around bassist Darl Ferm and drummer Mike Falcone’s rhythm section.
There are vulnerable moments, where Dupuis paints memories with heartbreaking vividness. “I’m messed up on moons, acting like a lunatic who needs a tide”, she laments on ‘Ginger’, alone at a party as her hormones wreak havoc. But ‘Foil Deer’ isn’t really about such moments of weakness. It’s about standing up, snot-nosed, scraped-kneed and gobbing at the shoes of the shithead that put you there. “Got a lack of woe”, begins opener ‘Good Neck’. “Watch your back because baby’s so good with a blade”. You won’t hear many more cutting albums this year.