The 23 year-old UMASS poetry student could probably get away with it too. Being the lead singer/guitarist of Boston’s best new band may just afford her that cache.
With Dupuis at the helm, Speedy Ortiz has stormed onto the Allston scene. In a little less than a year, the 90’s infused, guitar overdriven, fuck-it-all-where’s-the-whiskey quartet has quickly developed a small, but fiercely excited fan base. And at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, it is difficult to witness a Speedy Ortiz show and not see greatness on the horizon. Hell, the greatness has already arrived; that much was clear Wednesday night at O’ Briens. The grungy quartet played the release show for their latest E.P. Sports, the band’s first outing on Exploding In Sound Records.
There may not be a more apropos label name out there for this extremely loud and disturbingly catchy group. Armed with the wordy, free flowing pop stylings of Stephen Malkmus, the twangy, backwoods anger of Frank Black, and the just slightly-off weirdo nature of Doug Martsch, Dupuis has created something so fun and familiar that it leads me to compare her to three all-time legends of the 1990’s. Hyperbole be damned.
Let’s start with the guitar tone. Oh my lord, that guitar tone. Chunky doesn’t do it justice. It is a snarling, angry mass of sonic fortitude, imploring the weak to cover their ears and the strong to be intimidated. Like Dupuis’ hero Malkmus (she fronts a Pavement cover band), Speedy Ortiz lives for the menacing, atonal quiet verse into the rip-roaring chorus, be it poppy, or just as often, haunting in nature.
“I don’t like any music that doesn’t scare me,” said Dupuis. “All the pop stuff I like is really scary.”
The large Wednesday night crowd at O ‘Briens seemed terrified in the best possible way. Part of that is due to Dupuis’ cryptic and foreboding lyrical content. But it would be downright sinful of me not to mention the percussion section of bassist Darl Fern and drummer Mike Falcone. Together they provide a booming and crucial backbone that matches Dupuis and guitarist Matt Robidoux’s electric tone.
Before playing the entirety of Sports in order, the group played a couple of relative oldies, including clear standout “Taylor Swift”. No song exemplifies the group quite as well. What starts as a plodding and dirty 6/8 power romp quickly transitions into a classic Pavement atonal 4/4 feel, and then right back again. And that’s just the verses. As usual, Dupuis saves her best for the chorus, as she sings an unforgettable melody about the struggles of having too many boyfriends.
I realize this has come off more like a love letter than a concert review. But grandiose bands call for grandiose reviews. And I could’ve written 2,000 more words and included in-depth analysis of each of the five excellent tracks performed off of Sports (Robidoux’s lead guitar work on “Silver Spring” and “Suck Buddies” just kills). But I hope this is enough to inspire you to see Speedy Ortiz in person. They may be based out of Northampton, but I am officially claiming Speedy Ortiz in the name of Allston. They’re ours. And Dupuis feels similarly.
“We play here more than in Northampton,” said Dupuis. “I am really into the scene here. I could just keep talking for 20 more minutes about bands in Boston that I love. It’s just such a fucking good scene, and there’s a reason people are drawn to it. And I’m hoping that a lot these guys get picked up major style soon, because these are some of my favorite bands of all time that are around here right now.”
I know the feeling.
Photo Credit: Christine Varriale