Upon first listen, Soda Blonde, a four-piece Irish pop band, emulates the pure pop sound of artists like Robyn, Kimbra, and Christine and the Queens. Lead singer Faye O’Rourke’s voice is unmistakable… a floaty, expressive tone that sounds both modern and plucked straight from the 90’s. If you stuck her with the ladies of that era, such as Bjork and PJ Harvey, she’d fit in seamlessly.
However, O’Rourke has shown she can draw emotion and theatrics far more film noir… more high class, when she is called upon to do so. During an appearance on the The Late Late Show for RTE One in 2021, O’ Rourke performed a stunning rendition of Adele’s “Skyfall” from the James Bond film of the same name. Graceful and elegant, she remained stoic yet technically proficient, commanding the stage as the band’s swelling arrangement swirled around her.
Soda Blonde’s latest offering, “Bad Machine,” their first release in two years, is out now. Dream Big, their second album, is soon to follow. Their first record, Small Talk, was a critical success, highlighted by tracks like “Holy Roses” and “The Dark Trapeze.” The record expertly mixed theatricality with tight, organic instrumentation and well-crafted synth-pop based melodies. “Bad Machine,” the first glimpse of Dream Big, immediately feels like a shift to a darker rock-leaning direction.
The tune, dominated by a filthy guitar lick and elongated, blaring synths, sees O’Rourke take a page out of St. Vincent’s playbook for vocal performance. Her grounded, sweeter delivery is occasionally disrupted by touches of angst and rage, almost as if she is trying to remain level-headed despite her frustrations. The affectation used in the verses are cause for examination as well… she sounds robotic on the opening lines, “What did I hear… you say?” Almost like she has heard these criticisms many times before.
Lyrically, the track explores our animalistic, toxic tendencies. The ones we know we must change, but often neglect out of fear: “Every part of me, like a bad machine. Breaking everything all the time. Every part of me has been wired to repeat, I got a bad desire by design.”
In a statement, O’ Rourke elaborated on the honest lyric. “It’s this idea of recognizing that this is just a part of who you are and going with that, but it’s a double-edged sword,” she said. “Sometimes taking a chance, being spontaneous and taking a risk – they’re not always the safest moves to make, but that propensity to dare is what makes us great. We wouldn’t exist without it.”