On Twerp Verse, Speedy Ortiz Is Unstoppable

The band's earnestness is evident in every hook and harmony.

The first time I heard Speedy Ortiz on the radio, I called the radio station to see what they were playing. I had recently seen Carol and Peter from Bettie Serveert when I was on tour in Europe with Juliana Hatfield and knew they were making a new record, so I thought this was it. I was really surprised when the college radio DJ told me it was a band called Speedy Ortiz. I realized I was doing a stupid thing I hate: comparing one female led band to another, doing what people did to me my whole career. In the ’90s, everyone compared my band, Fuzzy, to other female bands, and it was a frustrating constant in our lives (along with dudes saying to us that we “probably only had a record deal ’cause we were girls”—not because we actually maybe wrote good songs?). In fact, a college radio DJ once compared Fuzzy to Bettie Serveert’s Palomine when we were touring with Dinosaur Jr in ’94…and here I was doing the exact same thing.

So I stopped and listened. I paid attention, and realized Speedy Ortiz rules. I love their subtle anger, great Fender guitar riffs, and memorable choruses and melodies, (and one of my favorite lyrics ever: “I’m not bossy, I’m the boss”). As icing on the cake, fast-forward to six months late: I co-found/co-run the Girls Rock Campaign Boston, and our girls’ after-school program will open up for Speedy Ortiz while they are touring, and partial proceeds will go to the Girls Rock Alliance, which, in turn, helps all Girls Rock camps. I love Speedy Ortiz even more now.

Speedy Ortiz’s new release, Twerp Verse, is infectious. They are calling the single “Lucky 88,” but there is a hook in so many of these songs. I think every single track on this one could be their hit. My favorite song on this record is “Lean In When I Suffer,” maybe because frontwoman Sadie Dupuis tells a story about having a panic attack and includes a lyric about “self-care” (I love how this new term suddenly appeared, and everyone overuses it), but it’s really because the chorus is so irresistible and got stuck in my head right away. I love all the winding riffs behind her vocals in the verses—“all abyss with no clapback,” she says. I have no idea if it’s guitar or keyboard, but it makes me want to write a song where I am playing a single guitar melody the whole time while I am singing (which I can barely and therefore rarely do).  

The song “Backslidin’” has more of these great, solo-y Fender-sounding riffs, reminding me of some of the great Doug Martsch’s Built to Spill guitar parts like in “Carry the Zero.” They nail the chorus melody, as Sadie sings, “At least we know each other well.”

“Can I Kiss You?” sounds like a catchier, quirkier, more rocked-up song off of one of my favorite ’90s Lisa Germano releases, “Slide.” The song is proof of how minor-chord, morose sounding-music can go so well with a grooving (electronic?) back beat. That, along with the sad stuffy-nose vocals, floating and dreamy at the same time—it gets in my head for days. Plus, the lyric, “I’m so averse to moving on”—I know exactly how she feels. Ha!

Sadie’s earnestness is evident in every hook and harmony. The melodies, sincerity, and raw emotion reminded me of a rule I have about music (which is also why I wanted to start the Girls Rock Camp, and why it works so well): I like anything, as long as it is honest. As long as it’s not a corporate strategy or a marketer force-feeding us some bullshit, I will support it. If it somehow seems disingenuous, I don’t wanna hear it or see it,  and I definitely will not back it.

Sadie Dupuis is the real thing. She is at that point in her career where she can be one of our heroes if she continues to work out her vision in her music, and that is exactly what she is doing on Twerp Verse. She helps show us how much outstanding rock music is being made by female and non-binary performers right now, and that makes me really happy, especially since I evolved as a musician when the record industry only gave a sly nod at feminism. As one of Sadie’s lyrics goes, “I’m in league with the devil…you better stop me. Better find a way to top me.” I don’t know if many can, so thanks for making this record, Sadie.

Hilken Mancini co-fronted the band Fuzzy in the ‘90s and was signed to Atlantic Records. In 2000, she co-founded Punk Rock Aerobics, the anti-exercise regime that created a fitness revolution, and released the book Punk Rock Aerobics: 75 Killer Moves, 50 Punk Classics, And 25 Reasons To Get Off Your Ass And Exercise. She co-founded Girls Rock Camp Boston and is currently their Program Director. She also plays guitar in two bands—Shepherdess and The Monsieurs—and owns a vintage clothing store in Boston, MA called 40 South St.