Oscar Wilde once said, “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” The fourth album by Sarah and the Safe Word, The Book of Broken Glass, tells a story that weaves a tangled web and adds just enough new elements into the band’s sound to keep the listener coming back for more. The set was produced by veteran hit-maker Jim Wirt, and this slick collection of songs moves the needle in the right direction for the band’s overall development. This album also features three tracks with outside collaborators, and yet these extra voices only add to the mystique that this artist has perfected through their mix of cabaret, emo, punk, and rock elements. With a wide range of emotions shown on these 13 songs, Sarah and the Safe Word make their most dramatic stamp on the music scene to date.
After a brief introductory song to set the stage for the chaos and tragedy that outlines the path ahead, the band kicks into full gear with the lead single, “Ruby Off The Rails.” The track features a great, heavy riff from Kienan Dietrich that sets the tone for the song that rocks with pointed purpose. The second half of the chorus, “She has a voice like tea and money stirred into your darkest worries / If the room is getting blurry, there’s no need to hurry / Hurry up and wait / Time is largely a construct,” is orchestrated to take the audience on a thrilling ride. The current single, “Old Lace” follows the driving, hard-hitting song with a balanced blend of cabaret and rock music as Sarah Rose laments on the first verse, “I wish they’d drop the bomb, I’m wearing thin / And if I’m drowning in my sorrows, I say bathe in them / I’m falling out of circadian / Lord, bless me with a sleepless night again.” The band does a great job with their improved chemistry, while violinist Susy Reyes showcases some great playing to keep the interest high.
One of my favorite songs on the front half, “A Little Evil Never Hurt Anyone,” features a logical progression from the sound the band went for on Good Gracious! Bad People., and still adds some new elements to their dynamic sound. “No One’s Home” adds some eerie backing sirens, before a pulsating drum fill from Carlos Gonzalez kicks the chorus into a new gear. Sarah Rose sings vulnerably, “You know, I’m halfway human and I’m already gone / You know, I’m halfway delirious / But it feels like I belong / The lights are on, the lights are on, but no one’s home.”
The first track to feature an outside collaborator, “…But Tonight! We Dance!,” allows for Dog Park Dissidents to join in the frenetic dance explosion that comes through the speakers, and never strays from the core vibe of the LP. Other songs with outside voices include the raucous “Soldiers of Rock N’ Roll,” utilizes the talents of Chumbawamba’s Danbert Nobacon to echo each of Sarah Rose’s vocals. The aggressive first verse of, “Don’t call it noise pollution / We’re setting off alarms / Now busting rhymes is doing crime? / Well, who’s been selling arms?/ The courts, the kangaroos, the four horses and their kings / But we run the airwaves / So sing while the city sleeps,” shows that Sarah and the Safe Word are more than capable of bringing weight to their words. “All The Rage” features an electric rapped bridge from Jamee Cornelia, that oddly doesn’t seem too far out of place given the band’s love for hip-hop.
The back half of the album features some great gems, like “Broken Crowns, Forgotten Pageants,” that features a soaring chorus of, “And I / I can see the sinking in your eyes / And I / I can see the secret in your smile.” The lofty goals set for themselves pay off big time on songs like this, and paired with Jim Wirt’s production, it makes for an incredible moment on the record. Things continue down the path of notoriety with “Sky On Fire,” a song that Sarah Rose wrote partly about the incredibly heartless laws against the transgender population, as well as Sarah’s personal struggles with her past. I found the personal second verse of, “I’m so sick of half my family / And being scared year after year / But if I ever had a father / Then I know his name was John / He taught me building hope from nothing / And taught me how to carry on,” to be very moving and showcases a band willing to take their music to the next level.
Arguably the band’s most ambitious song to date, “A Sleep: The Owl Makes His Offer,” takes the listener on a thrilling ride with many twists and turns, much like a complex novel with great character development and surprises in store. Keyboardist Beth Ballinger adds some well-placed synths and cryptic notes into the mix that complements what the band is doing in the background to begin closing out this chapter in the band’s discography. Add in a gripping piano-based ballad, called “X,” about a partner that Sarah Rose lost and you’re left with a picturesque landscape of songs soaked in tragedy that still adds new elements to the band’s sound.
There really is something for all music fans to enjoy on The Book of Broken Glass. The band took several calculated risks on this record, and almost all of them paid off big time. From adding in some outside collaborators to bring their vision for their music into full focus, to improving their songwriting craft, everything just clicks perfectly into a place like a jigsaw puzzle. Sarah and the Safe Word are sure to keep interest high in their unique blend of cabaret, punk, and rock to thrill whoever picks up this “book” to see what adventure lies in front of them.