Dead Sara is perhaps the most under-exposed and underrated rock band of the genre today, which is a real shame because almost everything they do is gold. Between the powerful and intense voice of Emily Armstrong, the authoritative guitar of Siouxsie Medley and the energetic drums of Sean Friday, this is all that makes rock amazing. Their last album Ain’t it tragic is just further proof. Last time we saw Dead Sara was the outstanding EP of 2018 Temporary things taking up space, who held proof that their next big project would be an expansion of all they are. Ain’t it tragic is this expansion, and it’s pretty fantastic.
Dead Sara’s early days were about as raw as rock is – the emphasis was on unchecked aggression, a face-to-face attitude reinforced by the outstanding performances of each member of the band. Their second album, It is a pleasure to meet you, was a refinement of that intensity, and the brutal emotions they channeled into this album propelled it to greatness. Temporary things was interesting in that it contained songs that sounded different from Dead Sara’s previous work. Songs like the melancholy party hymn “Times to Remember” or the essentially synthwave melody “One Day We’ll Make it Big” showed that they were not afraid to experience the emotional rock sound they did. had created, and they acted as a bridge to the first song on their new album “Starry Eyed”.
I’ll be honest when I say “Starry Eyed” is my favorite track Isn’t that tragic. Not because the others are bad, but because it’s sort of an amalgamation of everything they’ve done before. The synth and smooth build-up is exquisite, but it all explodes into something as intense and emotional as any of Dead Sara’s other songs, and this opener ranks among my favorites by them. It also defines the thesis of this album: creative frustration. As a standalone song, it’s gorgeous, combining all kinds of different rock shoots, including powerful ballads and grunge.
“Good Times” and “All I know is you left me for dead” follow that opener, and they foreshadow the rest. The first one is really a “sex drugs and rock n roll” song, but with a nice cynical twist. Essentially it’s a testament to what therapeutic substance abuse can be like and why we live in a world where people need to be numb. Meanwhile, the latter is a classically-styled break-up song, but it’s better than most thanks to Armstrong’s outstanding vocal work. The reason I say these two songs foreshadow the rest of the album is that they both rework old rock into something new.
These are immediately followed by “Hypnotic”, which is the first of the songs released before the full album. “Hypnotic” is the one I’m kinda stuck on. The sound is hugely different from the rest of Dead Sara’s work, and not in a bad way. It uses a very deliberate rhythm to create a catchy tune, and the subject matter sounds like one of the album’s many examples of meta-commentaries on the band’s place in the rock world. One of the opening lines of the song is about how tired they are from screaming at the top of their lungs (which Emily Armstrong is good enough for). It is immediately followed by the chorus, which begins with “I’m going to make this shit hypnotic”. Considering how different it is, it almost feels like the band is collectively saying “this is what happens when we go mainstream”. It feels like they’re working on the idea of changing their sound to be more famous.
“Heroes” is next, and it’s one of Ain’t it tragic‘s several highlights. It’s an ironically optimistic song about the deaths of all the heroes in the band. And I’m not the one interpreting cryptic lyrics; that’s the chorus. “All my heroes are dead / and they live in my head.” Considering how this term has often been used to justify the shitty wages that “essential” workers received during the pandemic, I can’t help but think that this song is somewhat of a memorial to all of us. frontline workers who have had to face the public during the pandemic. Alternatively, it could be becoming disillusioned with your idols. After all, it starts with talking about how you should never meet your heroes. Whichever way you choose to read it, it’s a great piece.
“Hands Up” fell in one back in the latter part of 2020, and it couldn’t have been more timely. It’s their obligatory comeback track where it’s just song-formatting fury. Instead of talking about a breakup or something like that, though, it’s about frustration over poor communication. The title refers to walking away in the middle of a conversation, and the reason I say this is timely is because of the division America is in right now. Hell, when it was released in 2020, it seemed relevant, and even more so now almost a year later. As well as just being a piece of rock in your face, it’s also a testament to the poor communication in the world lately.
“Lover Stay Wild” takes a sharp turn towards a more classic rock track, this time dealing with a bad relationship. It’s a topic the band has covered in the past, like with their outstanding song “Pretty Ugly”, and “Lover Stay Wild” does a good job on it. This is a slow, emotional track about wishing the best on someone you’ve let down or hurt in some way. It’s a great song, but like some of their other slow tracks like “Face to Face”, it’s not necessarily my favorite. It’s more a personal preference than anything else; I just enjoy their more intense stuff.
“Gimme Gimme” and “Lights Out! Are two incredibly funny songs about really bad behavior. The first is to take just about any medicine under the sun, especially the pills. The latter is what I could see becoming the anthem of the party on the album, with an incredibly catchy chorus about shining like gold. Both show that Dead Sara is still able to deliver solid, well-constructed, and catchy songs when they feel like it.
The penultimate song “Uninspired” is my second favorite song on the album, mainly because it’s a biting hit on everything the world has been through disguised as a scary tune on Creative Bankruptcy. On the surface, Emily Armstrong lists things that don’t inspire her. But it’s these topics that she sings on that give the song its edge. Things like “her Hollywood potential” and “American freedom” leave her uninspired. It sounds like a sort of deviation, a way to tackle all the crazy bullshit of the past year and a half without being too “topical”. In other words, the song seems to suggest that none of it will make good art because we’ve all experienced it. It’s too raw. Too real. Too close to home. Or at least that’s my interpretation.
Ain’t it tragic ends with “Losing My Mind”. It’s basically the punctuation mark at the end of the album phrase; it’s a simple song about being mentally ill. It’s different from everything else, using elements of electronic music. It’s less a rock song and more pop, and that’s damn good in that sense. But it’s probably the perfect way to end Isn’t that tragic. The album is an amalgamation of everything Dead Sara has ever done, and is essentially a 40-minute testament to how creatively being choked can lead to some amazing and scary things.
The fact that Dead Sara continues to make music despite minimal success is something to celebrate. The wait between their release is always long, but it is always worth it. Ain’t it tragic that’s all I wanted him to be: it’s angry, it’s beautiful, it’s sad, it’s optimistic. It’s, for me, the perfect album for the times we live in. Dead Sara has stayed completely true to himself with this full third album, but they’ve found a way to keep it both modern and relevant. . I can’t think of more praise than this.