review : Dead Sara – Pleasure to Meet You

West Coast hard-rockers prove everyone wrong with unexpected second album.

I know what you want,
but it’s not gonna be what you like!

 

Dead Sara Pleasure

The first time I listened to Pleasure To Meet You, it reminded me of the first time I listened to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It said “rock” on the label, but I quickly knew it was like nothing I had heard before. While there was undeniably rock DNA in there, it was a whole new animal.

You see, I was expecting Dead Sara to be the new L7. I was expecting a heavier, harder-hitting album than the first one, full of RATM-inspired head-banging hits, with some in-your-face riot grrrl attitude as icing on the cake. Some black and white promo shots with lots of tattoos. Maybe Ross Robinson behind the deck. And that would have been fine. I love heavy rock with female vocalists. I’m a huge fan of L7 and riot grrrl bands. I would’ve listened to that on repeat.

But Dead Sara will not be boxed in. They are blazing their own trail.

Still Heavy

To the Deadicated, I say fret not : they are still heavy hitters.

Suicidal opens the album and showcases singer Emily Armstrong’s amazing range with her signature effortless tone changes. L.A. City Slum starts with thundering drums and choppy guitars, then swells to an urban riot complete with John Zornian saxophone, the first hint that they are plotting guerilla warfare.

Radio One Two has the straightforward, uptempo, pedal-to-the mettle energy recognisable from the first album. It’s a defiant anthem to blast in a stolen Cadillac while you drive with one hand and flip the bird with the other. It’s a killer track.

Blue Was The Beautiful You is a cry from the heart, raw and powerful, reminiscent of PJ Harvey or Shannon Wright.

Mr. Mr. continues in this theme but is a slower, heavier track: a diss song whose blues-inspired riff will sound more familiar to fans of The Black Keys and Royal Blood (or Alabama Shakes or Jack White or…). But once again, it comes with a twist and goes in an unexpected direction. Can you follow the white rabbit ?

Feel Right At Home is a massive stadium rocker, but is also sprinkled with cowbells and tropical drum breaks, Sean Friday at his devilish best, and a suprising melodic bridge. Like on Mona Lisa, Siouxsie Medley’s (guitar) backing vocals add to the band’s already wide palette.

Lovers of the Second Degree

These hints lead somewhere, and that place is the Louvre.

Right off the bat, to get it out of the way: Mona Lisa is an incredible track, and my favourite on the album. It is an anthem to confidence and freedom and rock’n’roll catharsis, a Daliesque fever dream, zig-zagging from soul chorus to heavy rock to groovy stoner bass line.

It took guts to chose it as a single, for the same reason that it took guts to make this album at all: the song structure, choice of time signatures and sudden changes of direction in the song (choices that are sprinkled all through the album), do not make it a radio-friendly track.

As to For You I Am, the six minute track that closes the album, I will admit that I didn’t get it until I saw the live recording on Jimmy Kimmel. A some detail I think is lost in the wall of sound of the album version and it’s a more powerful song live, and will make I am sure a great set closer.

The Doors of Perception

This almost prog-like approach is, in my opinion, exciting and quite refreshing. It keeps you on your toes, and it shows off how tight their playing is. I feel the same about Something Good… or any other track on this album really. It puts a shiver down my spine like the first album by the Mars Volta or the first time I saw Mike Patton live. There is a wild, unpredictable nature to true rock music, and Dead Sara has that crazy spark.

This new direction might confuse FM-hard rock fans, but it’s what makes this album so great, and is sure to get them noticed by a broader and more mature audience. I cannot wait to see these songs live.

Hey, Dead Sara, what would it take to get you over here to Norway ?

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