Support Local Journalism. Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club.

The Reputation 

With Starberry. Thursday, February 6, at the Beachland Ballroom.

Sarge didn't have a radio single, a groundbreaking style, or a fashion-forward way of appropriating an established sound. It was a female-fronted trio, but singer and guitarist Elizabeth Elmore and bassist Rachel Switzky weren't riot girlies, Lilith fare, or scantily clad pop princesses, which would seem to exclude them from coverage in the mainstream media. Yet in 1998, Rolling Stone picked the minor indie outfit as its "hot band," Spin named Sarge one of its 98 artists for '98, and Robert Christgau and Greil Marcus, rock's Siskel and Ebert, gave the group two enthusiastic thumbs up, in Playboy and Artforum, respectively.

Nevertheless, Sarge shrugged off major-label offers, and Elmore continued to book the group's modest tours herself. In 2000, after releasing another well-received full-length, Sarge broke up, and Elmore entered Northwestern's law school. Two years later, she formed a new group, the Reputation, whose self-titled debut picks up right where Sarge left off. "Either Coast" and "The Stars of Amateur Hour," the propulsive opening tracks, showcase the strengths of Elmore's former band: clear and confident vocals, complex layered melodies, and bittersweet, introspective lyrics. The rest of the album, though, strays far from this neighborhood, ending in an entirely different zip code with a brilliant torch-song treatment of Elvis Costello's "Almost Blue."

Lyrically, Elmore prefers to concentrate on relationships -- despite the fact that her feminism and law studies give her the right background for penning protest anthems. And she's exceptionally good at it. Even after filling three albums with relationship material, her capacity for conveying emotional turmoil is far from exhausted -- just listen to lines such as "If everything's my fault/You're not to blame for all your simpering diatribes/On how I've caused you so much pain." Besides, she doubts that raging against the machine to a receptive indie-pop audience would accomplish much. "Writing a song about something is a pretty ineffectual way to change the world, especially at this level," Elmore says. "I don't really like sloganeering. When I want to effect social change, there's so many better avenues for me to do it than through writing a song."

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected].

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Speaking of Previews

Latest in Livewire

More by Andrew Miller

Read the Digital Print Issue

January 26, 2022

View more issues

Most Popular

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.


Staff Pick Events

  • Michael Kosta @ Hilarities Comedy Club

    • Fri., Jan. 28
  • Ali Siddiq @ Improv Comedy Club & Restaurant

    • Fri., Jan. 28
  • The Boys From the County Hell @ House of Blues

    • Fri., Jan. 28

© 2022 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 505-8199
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.

Website powered by Foundation