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REVIEW | The Social Disaster — “Dark Side of the Roller Rink”

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by Maddy Siiter

Duluth’s own self-described gloom-pop, doo-wop band The Social Disaster released their debut album Dark Side of the Roller Rink today. It’s difficult to describe gloom-pop and how it meshes with any doo-wop, but somehow it just works.

Formed in 2013, the band has already made quite the name for themselves around town, packing in venues almost every weekend. Needless to say, the hype for this record is real and no one really cares if they can’t explain it. There doesn’t have to be a dictionary definition for the sound of The Social Disaster.

While pop-punk undertones make the powerful and poetic lines easy to be singing all day, it’s the dark and soulful-synth melodies sung by vocalist Rachel Phoenix that piece it all together and make you realize how good it is.

The record opens with “Queen of Agency,” which gives listeners a taste of what’s to come. It starts off with a poppy guitar riff, dips into a dark and loud tone of crashing cymbals and goes back into a light and danceable melody.

The eerie, synthesized vintage vibe in the beginning of “Machinery” sounds like something that would be in the background of a black and white film, before it launches into something heavier. The lyrics are simple but expressive. Powerfully repetitive, Phoenix sings, “I made you believe that I could be good again,” as the song rages on.

The poetic and somewhat in-your-face lyrics don’t stop there. In “Little Girl” Phoenix sings, “Hey little girl, go on and let the truth be told. Don’t be a pile of ashes in his perfect little world.” It’s straightforward, but creates a prolific storyline without dulling anything down in the song.

“Bad Boys” drops in some doo-wop and little bit of surf-pop fun into the mix. With the line, “I’ve been warned so many times before, but I like the bad boys with big hearts,” you can almost see a smirk on her face.

“Want It All,” released as the first single, is the song that seems to tie everything together on this record, both sonically and lyrically. Layered harmonies boom throughout the chorus. “I want it all. I always take it too far.” Its large sound and honest, catchy hookline make it one of my favorite tracks.

This record feels so personal but allows listeners to form their own experiences around the songs, even with the deep imagery the songs give off. Listening through the 10 tracks of Dark Side of the Roller Rink, I felt empowered and then nostalgic for things I hadn’t lived at the same time.

Maybe it was the brutally relatable name that initially gave this band such a draw, but listening to the record, I understand why people want to stay. It’s definitely too good to ever hear being played at a roller rink.

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