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Album of the Week

Review: Sadie Switchblade Is Rock’s Most Beautiful Loser on Dyke Drama’s ‘Tender Resignation’ EP

Dyke Drama's Tender Resignation
SPIN Rating: 8 of 10
Release Date: November 16, 2015
Label: Salinas Records

Sadie Switchblade, frontwoman of hardcore punks G.L.O.S.S., recently became mainstream-famous for an unfortunate reason, as her group was the recipient of a series of despicable, transphobic tweets from the shoegaze band Whirr. The story, which was picked up in outlets like Billboard and NME that would normally never cover either band, resulted in Whirr being dropped from their label and essentially excommunicated from social media, while Switchblade was celebrated for her appropriately middle-fingered response. (“Suck my transsexual dick” makes “Is that a world tour or is that your girl’s tour?” seem pretty goddamn silly and meaningless by comparison.) But if being the target of such idiocy was the reason many people first heard of Switchblade, the reason they’ll continue to remember her is Tender Resignation, her first EP under the Dyke Drama alias, and one of the most stunning punk rock records in recent memory.

While G.L.O.S.S.’ Demo EP was a steamrolling eight minutes of louder-faster gutter blasts (Sample bellow-along: “THE FREAKS ARE COMING!!!”), Resignation is far more sentimental. Performed almost entirely by Switchblade, aside from a couple well-wishers stopping by to contribute organ and backing vocals, the EP is six tracks and a whopping 17 minutes of bleary-eyed heartbreak boogie. Though Switchblade hails from Olympia, Washington, riot grrrl capital of America, she more clearly follows the beautiful-loser Minneapolis lead of the Replacements here — “Westerberg” is even tagged on the EP’s Bandcamp page, and Paul’s probably wondering if a lyric like “I wasn’t born to lose / It’s just the thing I do best” might be borrowed from some ‘Mats deep cut he wrote too long ago to remember. It’s punk in its rawness, but not in any kind of musical elitism: The intro lead to “Hardest Years” sounds like John Cougar Mellencamp, ferchrissake.

Switchblade is a worthy successor to Westerberg not just in her ability to turn a self-deprecating phrase while cranking out a stadium-echoing riff, but in her ability to make outcast vulnerability urgent and emboldening. “Do you handle disappointment with a handle full of poison? / Do you cut the lights and cry like me?” she asks in a frayed yell at the beginning of “I’m Just Sayin’,” and it’s easily as enthralling as any of G.L.O.S.S.’ breakneck calls to arms. Even better is “In Your Truck,” the album’s power-ballad climax, where Switchblade sings of an awkward post-encounter at the titular location over a weary guitar chug. “It’s not the silence I can’t take,” she bleats in a warbling pitch on the second verse. “It’s the sad look on your face / It’s the way we sit and talk like everything’s OK.” The chorus that follows is the EP’s most devastating, Sadie straining vocally and emotionally to ask “All I wanna say / Is ‘Do you feel the way….’,” unable to even complete the thought. It’s exquisite in its brutality, Switchblade’s very own “Sixteen Blue.”

With its obvious and acknowledged Replacements comps and unapologetic emotional openness, Dyke Drama could probably most easily be compared sonically and spiritually to Beach Slang, another coastal band that was definitely feeling Minnesota this year. But where The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us found strength and salvation in its arena-rock dreams, Tender Resignation seeks no such affirmation — Switchblade’s not interested in breaking guitars or riding the wild haze, she’s too exhausted from crying in a bathroom stall and spending the whole day in her f**king bed. Sadie doesn’t seem to be actively seeking out the people who feel like her, she just wants to let them know that if they’re out there, they’re not alone. And in the process, she might end up saving just as many young souls as ol’ Saint Paul did once upon a time.