Speedy Ortiz’s debut Major Arcana is like buying yourself a rainbow candy necklace at the age you are now. Sporting one is a little quirky and a little idiosyncratic, but you totally can and you totally should cause they’re damn cool. When it was “in” for you to get your wrists and neck all muculent in sugary stick was most likely sometime during Speedy Ortiz’s inspirational ’90s. They’re not trying to hide it: Sadie Dupuis’ guttural vocal style will probably remind you of Kim Deal of The Breeders, the riffs often recall Dinosaur Jr. and there’s even a song on the album titled “Casper (1995).” Even without the current affairs of an economic crisis and an entry level job shortage, witty, sardonic music that accompanies cheap beer will always be necessary as long as there is sex, relationships and back-stabbing friends.
But be honest: I’m pretty sure that if you’re in the college undergrad age range you watched the classic Simpsons episodes when they were reruns. And you probably still watch them now beause they’re funny, satisfying and still relevant—just like the sweetly self-absorbed post punk of the ’90s. Major Arcana feels like it grew up on the same records as Cloud Nothing’s Attack On Memory. Both albums lament an incompetency about life and overall feeling that stability is, to some extent, out of their control.
Major Arcana sounds like a girl’s (or dude’s) animated beer-soaked bar vent and its crafty delivery makes it entertaining, therapeutic, and universal. If you took a tape recorder to a close friend, who leans toward hysteric tendencies, and had them retell their side of a fresh story that’s got them a little on edge, it might bear a lot in common with this record. Each song on the album is melodically inconsistent. Every song has spots where it suddenly flourishes into a tempo depicting a sudden mutter, sigh, mimic, taunt, grunt or drone. The little wedged gem “Plough” is a great example. The song begins with a twisted soft lullaby melody then shifts suddenly into a drum stomp of sudden frustration. It’s similar to the what happens when something you just said strikes a nerve. Later the song’s mocking tone is emphasized by the way words like “adult situation” are delivered with a playful lilt. As the song builds to a conclusion Dupuis seethes with anger and indignation, delivering the line “He wants to burn all my candles but it isn’t for love” over a churning, whirling guitar part.
Dupuis is able to veer away though from sounding like the bratty only child of the horrendously monikered “me” generation by remaining keenly self-aware in the midst of her rants. In a rant you can have a little “me” time. On “Tiger Tank” Dupuis states, “My mouth is a factory for every toxic part of speech I spew.” Disclaimers like this run throughout the album and that’s what makes it distinctly mature. Dropping a line like “Spent the summer on cruches and everybody teased/Except for this one friend I almost forgot” will sure give off the impression you’re thinking about what you’re saying. Even though Dupuis’ lyrics are filled with wry asides, she’s also conscious that it’s not all about hearing yourself blow off steam about what’s bumming you the hell out lately. It’s also about taking some time to shut up and mull it out over, like on the album’s seven-minute closer “MKVI.” Because when something is eating away at you, it’s not just about being dramatic—it’s also about allowing yourself some good over-thinking time.