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Judy G.

CD of The Week

Week of 9/04/23

    Speedy Ortiz - Rabbit Rabbit (Wax Nine)

    Stay busy has been a huge driving force for Sadie Dupuis’ artistic career. If she was not publishing books of poetry, or teaching creative writing at the University of Massachusetts, she could be found writing artist bios or lyrics for other bands’ albums. Or maybe she’d be writing solo songs as Sad13, or collaborating with her bandmates while also crafting the cover art for her own band Speedy Ortiz‘s albums. Along the way, she’s used her platform as an activist for Narcan distribution, collected music equipment for PA State inmates via the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers, advocated for Girls Rock Camps, and pushed for bands to boycott Amazon via No Music for ICE. And that’s the tip of the iceberg.

    But if you are reading this, I expect you are interested in Speedy Ortiz’s new album Rabbit Rabbit rather than reading Dupuis’ impressive resume. Their fourth album is the first one where the touring bandmates Audrey Zee Whitesides (bass), Joey Doubek (drums), and Andy Molholt (guitar) all contributed to the song creation process. It is full of poppy, sing-song, guitar-heavy hits, with some synth flourishes and even Sadie’s dog Lavender appears on “Who’s Afraid of the Bath,” a twinkling commentary of the best way to document a stalker.

    Most of the record is drawn from Dupuis’ past, deep-down trauma that she has only recently come to write about, and how she came to terms with those experiences by delving further into music. She told Stereogum, “Something I’m trying to puzzle through on this record is the trickiness of being drawn to the validation of playing music.” Starting out as an acoustic ballad, “The Sunday” kicks in lightly and praises the drum’s cathartic power while hinting at overwhelming full-day depression. The slow, plodding “Brace Thee” carries a sense of medicated doom, which parallels Dupuis’ emotional memories of child abuse and how music was her escape. With a sinister electro-synth base bubbling below the surface, the extremely catchy “Cry Cry Cry” builds as a lament about how Dupuis’ inability to cry is tied back to a childhood where the idea that “crying only made things worse “ was ingrained.

    The other theme of the record is how society affects individuals. As mentioned at the start, Dupuis has been involved in multiple empowering associations and organizations that offer benefits to those in need. Along the way, she’s been witness to people who talk about the good they do in public, while sponsoring diametrically opposed activities, metaphorically portrayed by the city of LA in the rollicking single “You S02.” On the grunge-pop of “Ghostwriter,” she sings of activism burnout, where someone is always ready to invalidate and tear your positive efforts down. Social commentary would not be complete without a call-out on sexism, where “Ballad of Y & S” comes from the point of view of women overshadowed by male counterparts (Yoko Ono and Sylvia Plath, respectively).

    Speedy Ortiz has officially been a Philly band for about seven years now, and the Philly scene also permeates her lyrics and inspiration. With its start-stop chord progression, “Scabs” was birthed while witnessing angry customers berate employees in a diminished, staffing-strapped West Philly post office back in COVID-wary 2021. And “Kitty,” with its child’s music box opening and anthemic verse, wishes for rest while wondering how her neighbors sleep, when people curse loudly and drag race over potholes and trolley tracks at 3 a.m. These are immediately relatable occurrences, that couldn’t be more specific or exact to this Philly resident. So if you are reading this early, go make them feel at home by yelling some profanities while they play Johnny Brenda’s tonight (September 5th). (Actually, it's advised that you just clap and cheer.)
    Review by Shepard Ritzen

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