Sorry's 925 Features Some Intriguing Takes on Indie Rock

Photo: Courtesy of Domino Records

Every track on Sorry's indie rock debut, 925, features something interesting, but the songs don't quite gel yet for the young London band with a lot of promise.



27 March 2020

Sorry's debut album, 925, is equal parts interesting and off-putting. They're a guitar band that sometimes uses their guitars sparingly. They're a pop band that isn't particularly interested in hooks. They take influences from hip-hop, electronic, and R&B but don't really embrace the hallmarks of those genres, either. The band is either a duo with a couple extra live musicians or a quartet, depending on how charitable songwriters/guitarists/vocalists Asha Lorenz and Louis O'Bryen are feeling about drummer Lincoln Barrett and bassist Campbell Baum on that day. A lot of Sorry's attitude feels like the disaffected grumpiness of classic early 1990s Gen X stereotypes updated for 2020 and Gen Z.

The record opens with "Right Round the Clock", a slow, loping track that marries a laid-back piano riff to big-sounding but sparse drums. Lorenz coos in a thick London accent about an attractive woman who is out on the town and getting everyone's attention. O'Bryen also chimes in on vocals and provides an interesting counterpoint. The midpoint of the song features a deliberate allusion to Tears for Fears' "Mad World". "I'm feeling kind of crazy / I'm feeling kind of mad / The dreams in which we're famous / Are the best I've ever had." The song also features some scuzzy-sounding guitars and synths here and there that dirty up the sound. There are a lot of elements in this song that are kind of fascinating, but it's also not a lot of fun to listen to, and that's how it goes for much of 925.

"Starstruck" and "Rock 'n' Roll Star" are of a piece. Both are lyrically about Lorenz getting involved with people more famous than herself and regretting it later. The former has lines like, "I'm the rotten apple of your eye" and "I am just your muse, nothing more", and includes multiple instances of Lorenz making gagging noises, presumably over her choice to be with this person. Musically the song has a danceable mid-tempo beat but features an intentionally atonal guitar riff to increase the unsettling quality of the track. "Rock 'n' Roll Star" opens with an upright bassline and some dirty saxophone playing, and it feels appropriately sleazy and late night for a track that's premise is "I stayed up all night / With a washed-up rock 'n' roll star." The style and tempo of the music keep shifting from slow and slimy to bright and jaunty as if reflecting Lorenz's changing mood throughout the night.

The album also features two songs named for women. "Rosie" is slow and languid, but features oddly tuned guitar and unsettling saxophone, as Lorenz and O'Bryen work out their feelings for Rosie, who is apparently stealing from them but it also too alluring to reject completely. "Heather" is an acoustic ballad with interesting guitar interplay, simple bass, and brushed drums, and tastefully arranged horn and string accents. It's one of the most straightforward tracks on the album, and it's a wistful song that finds O'Bryen and Lorenz again working out how they feel about the titular women. This time the chorus gets explicit in this regard. "What's a guy to do / A girl to do / A boy to do?"

"In Unison" is an example of a song where Sorry's penchant for being off-putting works for them. It starts with an unsettling chorus, "Everybody dreams alone / On their own / Privately / In unison / They fall asleep / And drop like flies." The music is oppressive, and the background filled with weird noises. The guitars are strange, and it does build to a sort of noisy climax. "Ode to Boy" also works surprisingly well, especially as it's a fairly straightforward love song. Sorry still fill it with background oddness, but the pretty vocal melody, particularly the choral voices accompanying Lorenz, keeps the song sweet, as Lorenz pines for the boy to come back safely.

There are no bad songs on 925, but the songs I enjoyed are pretty scattered. Every track has something interesting going on, from "As the Sun Sets" endlessly repeated refrain, "As the sun sets / I really wanna run into it" to the surprisingly straightforward '90s alternative rock of "Perfect". But often, those interesting elements didn't translate to songs that I was able to embrace fully. What I'm not sure if this is because Lorenz and O'Bryen are intentionally difficult and know they are playing a type of music where the audience is going to be limited, or if they are just not quite there on the songwriting yet. It will be interesting to see where their music goes in the future to see how they develop, but for now, Sorry haven't quite fully arrived.




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