Dead Sara is an intriguing band, foregoing the conventional dynamic of guitar/bass/drums by eliminating the second from their primary lineup for their new EP, ‘Temporary Things Taking Up Space’. The gravelly vocals of guitar-slinging frontwoman Emily Armstrong are a mainstay in the sound of this unholy trinity, strengthened by the brilliant lead guitar work of Siouxsie Medley and punchy rhythms of drummer, Sean Friday. The alternative rock trio have taken a step outside their comfort zone with this record – their first major label release, launched June 8 via Atlantic Records – dipping their toes into the waters of electronic elements not previously considered on their earlier releases.
The opening track, Times To Remember, bursts energetically into gear with a lively tempo that you can’t help but tap along to, before Armstrong wrestles with insecurity and the temptation to shake it off and start over. The chorus is loud and longing for the good times of the past, and verve of it is infectious. This is pure, uncomplicated alt-rock at its hilt. Following on, the second track – Anybody – is a complete contrast. This is where the band starts to get adventurous with an electro-pop feel that wouldn’t be out of place on a commercial music station. It is a definite step away from their core sound and doesn’t quite gel with the rest of the record. The lyrical theme, though, fits with the song’s uniqueness, given that the song is about isolation and not belonging. Listening to the record from beginning to end without this track shows that it wouldn’t be missed if left on the cutting room floor.
The third song and lead single, Unamerican, opens with dark, glitchy guitar and a guttural scream that set the tone for the brute force that is this political anti-Trump anthem. The overall sound echoes of the 90s, with elements of bands like Garbage and Lash shining through. The lyrics are like a verbal punch in the face, not holding back for a moment in the 3:46 runtime. This is unquestionably the best choice for a lead single. Next up is a track that bridges the border between the alt-rock groove of the record’s opener and the early forays of Taylor Swift into pop music. What It Takes is a by-the-numbers pop-rock song seemingly about someone wanting to reach out to the one person they trust enough to confide in, but maybe too late. If this is what it takes to crack the commercial market, they’re doing exactly that. At the cost, perhaps, of their musical integrity.
The ambitious lyrics of One Day We’ll Make It Big are easy to relate to for anyone who’s started a band in their parents’ garage, wanting to share the stage with their favourite bands, and they’ve dedicated so much of their lives to that dream that they – somewhere along the line – started to lose sight of what made them start in the first place. The gritty guitars give the dirty rock feel that harks back to the band’s beginnings. Closing the record is the second single, Heaven’s Got A Back Door, opening a southern-gospel feel that is reminiscent of the recent release from Zeal & Ardor. The music is hard-hitting, with punchy percussion taking the lead in the chorus. Strength is evident in this track, with the chorus of, “I’m through feeling sorry for the things that I can’t choose. If I made it this far being who I am, maybe heaven’s got a back door too,” shining hope for believers who have strayed from the path, not of religion, but of self-worth in the face of adversity.
‘Temporary Things Taking Up Space’ isn’t the band’s first record – far from it – but it is their first with a major label, and – with the record’s venture into a more pop-ish sound in Anybody and What It Takes – some may feel that the label has added its influence to the mix for marketability. Compromise comes at a cost, and the aforementioned tracks are the result of that concession.
‘Temporary Things Taking Up Space’ is out NOW! You can download/stream it HERE!