The Ropes are an alternative/ indie rock band from New York City. The band has released seven EP and LP’s in the past nine years, Sadness is the Rich Man’s Drug being their most recent EP release. The group became a duo in early 2008, leaving vocalist Sharon Shy to double as the bassist as well, and bandmate “Toppy” a multi-instrumentalist. It is clear the duo has been striving to reinvent themselves after the loss of former band members. Sadness is the Rich Man’s Drug is a short and sweet compilation of songs to showcase their dynamic abilities and newfound sound.
The title track on the EP, “Sadness is the Rich Man’s Drug,” reveals an obscurely message-driven song. The lyrics speak to the people who are so caught up in their everyday monotony, they begin to lose touch with real life and the things that are supposed to make them, as human beings, happy. The track discusses those who are rich in monetary substance as being poor, when it comes to owning things of personal value in their lives.
The video for this song enhances the meaning by showing vocalist Sharon Shy treating a mechanical toy dog as her pet. She is mundanely playing with it in the same gray-scale room throughout the entirety of the video. This seems to represent the message that you can’t create synthetic happiness, love, hope, or joy, the same way you can’t call a dog that doesn’t poop, “man’s best friend.” There are certain things that people who climb their way to the top must give up along the way, ultimately leaving them less fulfilled than when they started the journey. The Ropes have done an amazing job at stating this wake-up call in the most simplistic way.
The second EP track, “The Maiden Claiming,” starts out with a very Radiohead-influenced beat. The simple yet profound hook states, “in one afternoon you found comfort in a world that rejected you.” The upbeat, electronic theme of the instrumental is an ironic fit for the lyrics that speak about traitors and the naïve perceptions you can have about people who appear to be on your side.
“I am the Last Ghetto” is the most personal and poetic song on the EP. The lyrics, though hard to catch after just one listen, outline the feeling of having so much to say with no way to say it. Once again, the listener is left with an oxymoron of an upbeat instrumental surrounded by profound words.
Technically, Sadness is the Rich Man’s Drug was mixed and mastered very well, but the vocals tend to get lost behind the drum-machine driven beats underneath them. It is helpful when listening for the first time, to bring up the lyrics for the tracks so you can follow along. The Ropes are one band in particular that gives each word a powerful meaning, which shouldn’t be lost in the motions of just listening.
That being said, such complex lyrics don’t necessarily pair as a perfect match with the music behind them. It’s comparable to cooking a filet mignon and serving it with Lays potato chips instead of a baked potato. Sure, the filet mignon (or lyrics in this case) is nice, but next to the potato chips, it’s just a steak; not a steak dinner. With the hollow, upbeat instrumentals behind The Ropes’ powerful lyrics, we’re left with a poem; not a song. The duo’s originality and fearless approach to their songwriting, however, makes for a musical journey nonetheless.