The Scream (1893), pastel on cardboard
David Sheffieck: This sounds much longer than its three minute running time in the best way — epic, not tedious. It’s driven by an instantly indelible riff, a powerhouse vocal, but perhaps most of all by a fantastic sense of dynamics: that riff and those shouts wouldn’t hit nearly as hard in a song less willing to drop everything out of the mix on a dime just to emphasize a point. The result is a cut that sounds loose around the margins, but connects with undeniable confidence and precision.
Alfred Soto: Not as exciting as “Weatherman” because the lyrics are intelligible, but the ones I notice are pretty good. “I know what you want but it’s not gonna be whatchu like” is a mantra I’ve also repeated on Saturday night, regrettably without power chords. Plus, Emily Armstrong rasps like she’s chewed several lit cigarettes — always a plus.
Ian Mathers: Okay, fine, it’s not at all fair that I was mostly excited to see Dead Sara pop up here because I still fucking love “Weatherman” and that when this song wasn’t nearly as immediately brutal I kind of checked out. But I think even without the older song “Mona Lisa” would still come to close to the outskirts of bloozerawk for me to be 100% comfortable with it. That last minute, where they finally lower the boom and Emily Armstrong confirms she’s as powerful a presence as ever, improves things immensely, but I’m still a bit wary.
Anthony Easton: Takes the rockabilly quotations of the New Wave, marries them to the three-chord aesthetic of early punk, roughs up Lana Del Rey’s ’40s melancholy, and shoves it into a meat locker to freeze for a few days. I would have preferred a little bit of rot.
Maxwell Cavaseno: Blues, soul, gospel-inflections and homages just get a bit meaningless when they don’t draw from the end of the river. Instead everyone goes to the lake, to the source, the root… “Back to where it all began baybeeeee…..” *record skipping noise* Yeah, except here’s the thing. Billions of people have already been here before. Some better than you, and a lot who weren’t. So you’re coming to a dry well, and you’re fucked. It is incredibly apparent that your life and all you’ve learned in your years on Earth doesn’t actually mean anything if you can’t show it off in a way that’s new. So you can stomp, you can wail, you can display an incredible amount of passion… but if you have nothing of your own to truly show for it, what do you have?
Josh Love: Jack White’s wet dream. The sort of song you’d hear playing in a suburban tattoo shop or an “edgy” burger bar in the yuppie part of town. Anywhere that takes its guacamole recipe way too seriously.
Katherine St Asaph: They really want that Black Keys money, don’t they?
Brad Shoup: The backing vocals and those bass eighth notes: that’s what got me first. But I forgot that Dead Sara are sly melodists, as in the shiver in “not gonna be what you like,” and the overall fuzz-guitar harmonics. Nothing else makes a lick of sense, but I feel like that’s the goal: a senseloss that doesn’t make you a cloyist dadaist, just a charming rogue whose level must be got upon.
Rebecca A. Gowns: What a journey this song takes us on. As the mood shifts, I’m reminded of Breeders, Sheryl Crow, Garbage, Veruca Salt; echoes of many belting ’90s rocker girls, alternately and often in equal turns. The guitar shifts along with Armstrong, going from a chugging honky-tonk to a sassy sashay to a heavy stack of distortion and shredding. Is the music following the lyrics, or are the lyrics following the music? What came first, the bipolar poetry or the ADHD tune? Of course, as a sufferer of mood swings and attention deficit, I can’t help but be drawn to this kind of thing like a moth to the flame. Yes, ma’am! Snarl and belt and whisper about your cold loneliness and throw salt everywhere. This is the kind of crazy that I crave: empowered crazy, sassy crazy, owning it and screaming it. Contrast it with the thin trope of “Wouldn’t it be crazy if I were crazy?” that plagued all of last year. This song is not deadpan, not winking; it’s laughing maniacally, really and truly manic.