Emily Duff/Razor Blade Smile/self-released
3.5 Out of Five Stars
Emily Duff has attitude, and on her new album Razor Blade Smile, that’s immediately apparent, from the defiant pose she strikes on the cover to the title itself to the incisive and the insurgent stance she takes throughout. Indeed, it’s evident in the steady thrust that underscores practically every song, be it the ragged, roughshod rocker “Angry To Bed,” the cynicism and swagger of “Done and Done,” the twangy yet tempestuous “Feelin’ Alright,” or the turgid closing ballad “Nicotine & Waiting.”
In fact, Duff’s gritty mix of desire and desperation can be found at every turn, a sound seemingly inspired by the unsettled state of a covid-conflicted world.
It’s little wonder. Clock’s tickin,’ don’t be chicken, Going, going, gone y’all, better start livin’, Get up, get out, why ask why, Duff declares on opening track “Go Fast, Don’t Die,” a boost to those overwhelmed by severe circumstance and the overwhelming odds that have followed in its wake. Her defiant demeanor and edgy intents suggest she’s a rebel with a real cause, unwilling to tolerate any individual who attempts to get in her way.
Each of these entries makes that fact perfectly clear, and it’s that relentless determination that ultimately leaves the most emphatic impression. Duff doesn’t suffer fools lightly, and her arched persona makes that perfectly clear. It finds her an unapologetic punk pontificator, decidedly down to earth but ready to rumble if circumstances demand.
Ultimately then, Razor Blade Smile provides Duff with an opportunity to seize the spotlight and provide an outlet for her outspoken approach. Producer Eric ”Roscoe” Ambel, a man well-known for his ability to help fuel frenzy as needed, complements Duff’s grit and gravitas with inspired arrangements—a solid yet stoic sound that brings those feelings to the fore.
Like Chrissie Hynde, Joan Jett, and Lucinda Williams, Duff is carving out a career based on an ability to set her own standards and hold her own ground. It’s that conviction and confidence that allows Razor Blade Smile to carve such a precise impression.