[21 November 2005]
I was driving to work one night and, against my better judgment, found myself listening to one of the local rock stations. Something interesting came on the station, a song called “Sister” by a group called She Wants Revenge. The first thing that came to mind was that it sounded a little like Interpol.
Er, scratch that: it sounded a lot like Interpol.
Of course, Interpol themselves sound a great deal like Joy Division, so its hardly as if they have a monopoly on the sound. But it is rather uncanny, the way that She Wants Revenge manage to hit every note exactly right so as to create a perfect simulacrum of this specific sound. The similarities go as deep as the song titles themselves: instead of “She’s Lost Control”, we’ve got “Out of Control”; instead of “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, we have “Tear You Apart”. There’s no way these guys could be doing this with a straight face.
Sure enough, She Wants Revenge is the brainchild of two Los Angeles DJs, Justin Warfield and Adam Bravin. Given this, it makes sense that the project would seem more than a little calculated: this is the result of two intelligent producers who dedicated themselves to creating a laboratory-precise replica of a specific stylistic mode. This could not have been better designed to hit exactly the same indie kid pleasure centers as Antics—its the kind of achievement you have no choice but to respect, simply because it is rather intimidating to imagine what these guys could do if they decided to use their powers for evil instead of good.
Take album-opener “Red Flags and Long Nights”. The track begins with an ominous minute-and-a-half instrumental vamp, with droning guitars, pulsating synths and steady post-punk disco beat. When the jittery baritone vocals begin, sounding for the life of me like a professional Ian Curtis impersonator, the illusion is complete. The song locks into a groove, repeating the same handful of chords throughout the entire song, filling every open nook and cranny with ennui and sexual ambiguity.
Most of the tracks seem to feature dangerous, distracted women with an illicit sexuality. “These Things” features this inimitable chorus hook:
“I heard it’s cold out, /
But her popsicle melts, /
She’s in the bathroom, /
She pleasures herself, /
Says I’m a bad man, /
She’s locking me out, /
It’s because of these things.
Now, if you can, sing that in your best monotone, faux-goth Joy Division impression. Chances are it will sound very much like the real thing.
“Out of Control” details the nightclub misadventures of a woman in high heels and stockings. “Monologue” enters the world of S&M, and contains my favorite new lyric: “Just give me the safe word and take my hand, / And smack me in the mouth my love.” “Someone Must Get Hurt” could give The Killers a run for their money in the field of catchy 80s dance-pop—and that is, as you might imagine, a mixed blessing. The facility with which they can summon a seemingly endless number of minor-key, melancholy hooks is simply spooky.
She Wants Revenge are either the greatest tribute band in the history of music, or the biggest pranksters since Spinal Tap. The impression is so dead-on, I can’t help thinking that it might have been intended as something of a prank: if two DJs can replicate such a distinctive sound with such precision on a whim, what does that say about bands who devote their entire careers to following so slavishly in the footsteps of others?