With their self-titled debut album, Dead Sara made a believer out of me. A believer that the the true fire of rock and roll is very much alive. From the sounds of their newest album Pleasure To Meet You., they were just getting warmed up. This album may have as well been named Dead Sara Kicks Ass in 11 Different Ways. It would be easy to cite lead singer Emily Armstrong’s powerhouse vocals as the reason, but this is a band where all four members give their best to make one gigantic unstoppable whole. Emily Armstrong and guitarist/vocalist Siouxsie Medley have been playing guitar since they were kids and writing and working together since their mid teens. Drummer Sean Friday and bassist Chris Null, the rhythm and backbeat of the band, actually played together in a band with Skrillex before he was known as Skrillex. But all four together are the perfect combination. Oh and in case you were wondering, the name comes from a misheard Fleetwood Mac lyric.
The album leads with “Suicidal”, where right off the bat Emily is wailing from the gut, “We’re suicidal! Come on raise your bible!” without much more explanation, but without any really needed. Rather it seems like an anthem for those that feel like victims of a disconnected age. As the smoke settles and we hear someone arguing with someone to play the drum beat, the drums kick in of “L.A. City Slum”. This one is a heavy track that seems to be their “Welcome To Paradise” – a song that paints a picture of the dirty side of what they call home. The first single, “Mona Lisa” comes next. It starts out with what sounds like a chain gang spiritual doo wop intro. This one takes you from the big meaty riff side of the band, to a tender moment of Emily crooning, back to some gravel kicking hard rock harmonies – showing off many of their best qualities within one song.
Next up is “Something Good”. This is the kind of song that gives me goosebumps. The riffs, the power, the drums, all of it so perfect. And yet with catchy harmonies and Emily showing off her vocal range. And then when it turns almost Abba with its 70s style layered harmonies, it feels like a song I’ve known all my life. If this song doesn’t make the good rock radio stations, the radio has no excuses and should be ashamed of not recognizing a hit. Pretty sure this song is about loving someone who doesn’t recognize it yet. I could be wrong, as there’s no lyric sheet. But that feels like what it’s getting at. Then not letting up, “Lovesick” comes crashing in. It seems to be about not giving in to defined gender roles in relationships and the complications when you try to fit. The vocals on that one have some fire to them.
“Radio One Two” is a tough as nails anti-haters and anti-conformity anthem. The line that jumps out barreling at their would-be oppressors, “the cowards that ridicule, they’ve got pussies for cunts”. This is one of the most powerful tracks here. You can feel the venom and the anger boiling over from all of the situations so far in their lives where they’ve had to explain to people who don’t understand them or make them prove themselves to be taken seriously. “Mr. Mr.” follows with a swaggering beat and follows through in the same idea but this time more directed as chauvinistic men in the music business asking arrogantly “what do you have to offer?”. The end of this song not only goes from growl to roar vocally but then add a crazy harmonica solo to make it even more furious. Because let’s face it, women who rock this hard and get noticed are still inexplicably an anomaly in the popular realm of music. I hate that when I try to think of a comparison for Emily Armstrong’s voice in different parts of different songs, the closest female artists combined that I hear in there aren’t even from recent times. Janis Joplin… Joan Jett… Melissa Etheridge at her heaviest… Maybe it’s my age? But the only one I can think of at this moment from recent times with this kind of roaring rock and roll voice is Lzzy Hale from Halestorm. And that’s not okay. I hope this band inspires more women to start rock bands and to sing with everything they have pent up in them. And really that should go for all vocalists of any gender. This level of vocal fury and power doesn’t happen enough. That’s the sound of true passion and emotion pouring out.
Back to the album. “Greaser” starts out like it’s going to be a bluesy ballad. But nope! Crank it up! I really want lyrics to this one. In all its revved up fury I can’t make out what parts of the chorus are so I’m not quite sure what it’s about, but it’s one of the hardest and best rockers on the album. Next comes “Blue Was The Beautiful You”, with a heavy sludgy blues crawl. The band conjures up some great atmosphere in their playing on this one, with some staggered guitar and little details that all come crashing when Emily comes back screaming at the end. That’s how you do a song about the pain of love. “Feel Right At Home” has a bit more of an uplifting vibe with its harmonies that oddly make me think of the Beach Boys at the beginning. Another storming rocker! And then the album comes to an epic close with “For You I Am”, a pained song of love and longing the builds into something big, beautiful and soul-purging. Because Dead Sara doesn’t do plain old ordinary ballads. The song fades off in walls of feedback, as it should in the aftermath of the wreckage it causes.
Anybody longing to hear deep, passionate, no-prisoners rock and roll should take note of this album. I can think of no better example to describe this band than when I saw them open for Muse on the 2nd Law tour, and after their opening song, the audience was still stunned silent before their applause… taken aback by how powerful this band is, and surprised – as nobody really expects the opening band to floor them like this. I regret that I didn’t grab tickets to last week’s show here in Columbus, but I hope they return. I need to feel that again, and with all new songs. There are a lot of bands out there that need to give this a listen and take note of how to really let yourself go and put all of your power into what you do. This album gets one enthusiastic standing ovation from me.
You can get your own copy of Pleasure To Meet You. HERE:
Check out some videos…
and a fan-shot video of “Something Good” live at SXSW: