I’m not a punk, but Speedy Ortiz made be want to be, and that’s saying something. It’s hard to maintain punk credentials while making music that people without said credentials can enjoy; maybe that’s the definition of punk. Regardless, Speedy Ortiz achieved that rare middle ground on their 2013 debut by mixing dissonant guitars and twisted rhythms with a sexy female singer, an acrid wit, and a proper respect for their indie-rock forbearers (Exhibit A: before singing for Speedy, Sadie Dupuis was in a Pavement cover band called “Babement”). The result was an album that had as many jagged edges and squalls of feedback as it did moments of nuance and unadulterated, lighter-waving rock ‘n’ roll oomph.
On follow-up EP Real Hair, the Northampton, Massachusetts band smooth some of those edges, with mixed results. The cocktail of weird and wonderful that made Major Arcana such a fun ride has separated like oil and water. “American Horror’s” opening riff is accessible to the point of being uninteresting;it lacks the nastiness that lead guitarist Matt Robidoux flashed on tracks like “Tiger Tank.” Dupuis’s vocals still blend sneer with elegant and precise delivery, but her words don’t weave in and out of the explosions her band sets off behind her.
Speedy Ortiz are still weird and witty. They still have a feel for big choruses and tricky grooves. Sadie Dupuis still delivers bizarre lines like “She’s a blade and I’m a donut” with that undeniably Malkmus-like snark. They just don’t do all those things at the same time like they did last time around. “Everything’s Bigger” is a reminder of how awesome “Major Arcana” was, and it’s a pretty good song, but maybe that’s just because Robidoux borrows his own riff from the aforementioned “Tiger Tank.” The rest of the EP should have followed suit.