Dead Sara kicks more wholesale ass than if Danny Trejo and Danny Devito teamed up to fight Nazis with weed whackers.
They are the best rock band you’ve never heard of, and this carefully selected and arranged batch of their 10 best songs will show you why. Formed by Emily Armstrong and Siouxsie Medley when they were fairly young, they’ve gained a small but devoted cult following (appropriately enough, these people are called the Deadicated) since their one hit back in 2012. You may not have heard of them, but you won’t be able to unhear them once you have.
Here is my Perfect 10 for Dead Sara.
Track 1: “Childhood Courtesy”
Start off easy with this lilting, almost lullaby-esque tune about how mothers try their damndest to do right by their kids. It lets the listener know that the dynamic duo of Emily Armstrong and Siouxsie Medley are capable of soft, beautiful music. It doesn’t rush, it isn’t aggressive, but it sticks in your brain because, well, it’s almost universal.
I’ve been blessed with two parents that give a damn, but I know that isn’t the case for everyone. It’s the state of the world we’re in, and the unfortunate truth is that more often than not, the mother of a child is left behind to raise their kid by themselves. This song touches on that, acknowledging how single mothers are people too, and even though they make mistakes, they are a beautiful, heartfelt force to be reckoned with. They do what they can with what they’re given.
I can’t imagine that raising a child is easy with two devoted parents, and one is almost unfathomable to me. But even ignoring that part of the song, it’s simply a love letter to great moms everywhere—after all, it ends with the simple line, “Thank you, mom.”
It’s a beautiful early tune from the band.
Track 2: “Times to Remember”
Let’s shift gears to what sounds like a very traditional pop rock song designed to be a party anthem. In many ways, this is just that. It’s got a catchy-as-hell guitar riff, and the music swells when necessary. You can almost picture a bunch of young people taking shots during the chorus after a toast to their endless young days.
Paying attention to the lyrics, though, this is more a song about reconciling with those you were once close to. It’s about laying yourself out for the world to see and being hurt. The second verse, where Emily sings “I don’t know, I’m so insecure,” reflects being rejected by people she thought she was close to. How autobiographical this is I’m not sure, but it’s a recurring theme in the band’s music.
The song works as a party anthem because it suggests burying the past and trying to build friendships anew. It’s about giving people another chance, because they, like you, are only human, and they make mistakes just like you do. It suggests that, maybe, there is a time to forgive people’s sins.
It’s ultimately hopeful, in other words, in a world where people are constantly screwing each other over. It’s a decidedly more positive message from a group most known for their hyper-aggressive attitude.
Track 3: “Fish Out of Water”
Further easing the listener into what the band is all about is this song, which I was told at a show was their first professionally recorded tune. I have no way of verifying this, but if anyone from the band is reading this, I’d greatly appreciate you reaching out and either confirming or disconfirming this. Purely for scientific purposes.
This being such an early song, it is much more angsty. The chorus makes it pretty clear that this is about rejecting someone that’s wronged you by abjectly refusing their influence. It challenges them to take a good look at themselves and consider who they really are and why they’re like that. And, alternatively, it’s about the singer looking inward, wishing they were able to read the signs that whoever this person is is not a good influence. It’s an interesting dynamic, and suggests that, sometimes, giving people second chances, like in “Times to Remember,” isn’t enough, and there has to come a point where you say no.
Otherwise it can get hard to breathe.
Track 4: “Mona Lisa”
The first single released for Dead Sara’s stellar sophomore album Pleasure to Meet You, this one is tough to crack at first, and is actually a case where the music video informs the music. It starts off simple enough, with some finger snapping and soulful humming, before building to a heavy, commanding finale where Siousxie Medley’s guitar playing takes center stage.
The central line of the song is “I know what you want, but it’s not gonna be what you like.” Taking the bizarre imagery from the music video, which seems to be showing some kind of perverse party, it’s a weird sexual take on fame. Mona Lisa is a well-known work of art, and Emily constantly sings about how, “My Mona Lisa was looking at me.” Taking these two lines together, my opinion is that the song is about wanting something (maybe in this case fame or sex or really anything) and being let down by it. It’s not at all what you think it will be.
Then again, the song builds and builds to the frantic finale, so maybe it’s just a classic song about sex. Regardless, it’s an absolutely killer track.
Track 5: “Weatherman”
This is the big one, folks. Like many, this was the first song I ever heard from the band, and it hits like a two-ton sledgehammer with its simple, commanding guitar riff and Emily Armstrong’s aggressive, intense vocals. It’s kind of all over the place in terms of its message (I think I read it’s the first song that they ever wrote together as a band) but it’s ultimately about how masturbatory the zeitgeist has become and how only you can make what you want from life happen.
A line in the second verse is “There’s no one else more dedicated,” there’s a line about how “Pretentious thieves want you to believe it’s theirs to take,” and the line that gets repeated the most is simply “Go for the kill.” It’s about how you can lose yourself if you let society as a whole dictate who you are. And, in a line that we will see echoed later on, it suggests that even though doing so might make you Un-American, it doesn’t matter.
Despite how aggressive and in-your-face it is, it’s really supposed to be an uplifting wake-up call about being exactly who you want to be. It gained quite a bit of mainstream appeal, enough so that it’s appeared in the likes of the trailer for big releases like Infamous: Second Son on the Playstation 4, as well as some other places. It’s due to the simple but powerful music and the equally powerful message that it resonates with so many.
Track 6: “One Day We’ll Make It Big”
Easing up just a tad before the last few songs, this is what I can only assume is an autobiographical song about Emily Armstrong and Siousxie Medley’s experiences as musicians. It’s noteworthy that this is a much more recent song, off their 2018 EP Temporary Things Taking Up Space. It’s a simple, almost poppy song about dashed hopes and dreams.
It essentially recounts their lives when they were younger with stars in their eyes and dreams of someday leaving Hollywood. After the first chorus, it shifts to their teenage years, where they started to really grow as musicians, and how even early on, they saw the signs that they may never really become stars. After all, Emily says that they, “Wilt and faded like Flowers on Pavement/ We drink champagne to any occasion/ We were dreaming of far away places/ Saying one day we’ll make it big.”
Even though it’s not their usual output, there is something extremely nostalgic and sad of the more pop sound they go for here. It echoes more mainstream hits, but comes from the unique perspective of artists who are severely underappreciated and underexposed. It’s ultimately very sad. As far as I know, they still live in California and have sadly not had a hit as big as “Weatherman” since that single hit the airwaves.
And despite that undeniable frustration and sorrow, it’s also kind of inspirational. After all, they still put out great music, despite the fact that they might never make it out of Hollywood. It’s a cautionary tale, and a reminder that even if you’re the only person that knows about it, you should, to quote Neil Gaiman, continue to “make good art.”
Track 7: “Radio One Two”
This is also a song about immense artistic frustration, but instead of being an almost serene pop song, it’s a gigantic middle finger to the world. And it ain’t subtle, either. The very first line is, “They say what they want/ I don’t give a f*ck.” They make it clear that they don’t give a good goddamn what anyone thinks of them, much like in “Weatherman.” This isn’t the last time we see this, either.
The second half is decidedly more desperate than the first, with the lovely line, “I’m here, love, for you dear/ Well I guess the longest time still don’t mean forever.” Couple that with the chorus of “I can save you/ save you my goddamn self” and it’s about trying to reach out to the frustrated masses. It asks them to join in the bird-waving and start a riot. It’s an energetic, aggressive, wonderful song.
And I know I haven’t mentioned him in this article yet, but special note must be given to the band’s drummer, Sean Friday, in this song. He is pretty great throughout all the band’s songs, but here he gives it everything he’s got, building to an almost uncontrolled form of organized chaos by the song’s end.
Track 8: “Unamerican”
Punk rock isn’t dead.
This song is the updated version of “Radio One Two,” only far less subtle. Right from the get-go, Emily Armstrong makes it clear that this song doesn’t give a high-flying f*ck what you think. It’s about how the rise in dogma surrounding what it means to be an American is complete bullsh*t, and they even give a lovely nod to the rotten clementine currently sitting in the oval office and the… behavior from this individual only lead to narrow minded, judgmental thinking. The lead-up to the chorus each time is pretty clear. “F*ck this, f*ck everyone.” It’s an almost comically angsty line, but a clear illustration of what I assume to be Emily Armstrong’s frustration at how divided people have become.
The chorus makes it even clearer that there is no right way to live as an American. “I’m not your daughter, I’m not your bitch/ I guess I’m Unamerican.” Even though she’s (very loudly) singing that she must not be American, it’s clear that the song is meant as an ironic statement. She is a person, an individual, and she doesn’t belong to anyone but herself. The ending, where she repeatedly declares that “I want to be an alien” is the period on the song’s sentence—people have become so convinced that they’re right, they refuse to see anybody else’s point of view and even consider it for one second without making it about themselves, and for that, she wishes she wasn’t a part of the human race.
It’s exaggerated, of course, but the fact that it’s so on the nose kind of shows that sometimes, you can’t be subtle with people. The driving music helps a lot, too, and kind of makes you want to drop-kick Nazis.
And if you disagree with that, you’re probably Unamerican.
Track 9: “Lemon Scent”
This is, simply put, a rock song in the most classic sense of the word, with the aggression and angst cranked up to 15. It’s about “The other woman,” and trying to confront one’s lover in the most direct way possible, evidenced here by the fact that the music video is a literal fight between Emily Armstrong and Siouxsie Medley. It’s the tumultuous emotions of a relationship gone bad made concrete, and the song’s progression wonderfully echoes this.
Opening with yet another wonderful recurring guitar riff, it starts off fairly low key, with Emily singing about how this other woman treats her lover like dirt. Eventually, we get to the song’s middle, where she (somehow) whispers yelling into the microphone about everything this lover is giving up before building to what I can only describe as pure, unfiltered aural violence, with a finale that is frantic, intense, and adrenaline inducing. Like “Fish Out of Water,” it’s about rejecting a bad influence in your life, only here, no punches are pulled. Like “Weatherman,” “Radio One Two,” and “Unamerican,” it isn’t afraid to make a hard, painful statement, and the fact that it builds to such a cathartic climax is the cherry on top. It’s also proof positive that nobody, and I mean nobody can scream like Emily Armstrong.
Track 10: “Pretty Ugly”
End this Perfect 10 album with one of the band’s earliest songs, and also what is likely their best. It is everything that makes the band great. Emily Armstrong’s singing is off-the-charts great, telling a story about being in love with somebody and being unable to love yourself. Siousxie Medley’s guitar is commanding but subtle, catchy but evocative. It’s an aggressive song, but one that manages to feel almost universal.
Perhaps the line that best describes this is one that comes near the song’s middle, “Ugly me, ugly you.” It brings together the singing and the music to make you feel the feeling of being in a bad relationship. It’s something almost anyone can relate to—when you love somebody and they love you but you’re both terrible for each other for various reasons. Unlike something like “Lemon Scent,” which is a very one-sided, personal stance on a bad relationship, this is more about how sometimes, no matter how you feel about each other, sometimes it’s just not meant to be.
It’s melancholic and powerful, and perfectly summarizes everything that makes the band so great. From a purely musical stance, it’s pleasing to the ears and the singing is just outstanding (as always), but it explores real, difficult subject matter in a way that rings true. It’s heartfelt, powerful, and simply unforgettable.
When the Music’s Over
I don’t have much else to say besides go give this band a listen. They deserve to be household names when it comes to modern rock.