She Wants Revenge
at El Rey Theater, January 20
“[They’re] another band that you’re going to hear about real soon. They’re killer, man — you’re going to bug out on ’em.”
—Fred Durst on She Wants Revenge, ?April ’05 (mtv.com)
Fred said so: Local new wavers She Wants Revenge are going to be big stars. And yet almost everything about them seems to be, possibly, an inside joke. An almost brilliant inside joke. A carefully planned element in an ambitious Warholian performance piece designed to make fools of the gullible, the tin-eared, the bandwagoneering, the very young, and Nic Harcourt. A joke so good no one gets it. (Fred Durst signed them. Fred Durst!)
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She Wants Revenge are said to have roots in B-boy culture and all things trip-hopish but are now conveniently drawn toward earlier obsessions: specifically, the entire post-punk/electro-pop history of Manchester/Sheffield circa 1978-1988. Their super-minimally arranged “songs” — more a numbered series of monochromes — are moaned out by singer Justin Warfield as if summoning the dead soul of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis (though his Iggy snarl is quite convincing). Onstage, Warfield somewhat incongruously hits his marks with sullen drama while also appearing eager to please, gushing frequently about how beautiful it is to be loved in his hometown.
The drummer is admirably spare and appropriately motorik, the guitarist dutifully lays out his Cure-ish incessant eighth-note drones, and co-leader Adam 12 drops in the intentionally cheapo ’80s-style string-synth and “Sister Europe”–era Psychedelic Furs bass dum-dum-dum. They do this many, many times, and, despite the darkly evocative minor-key chord progressions, after three or so run-throughs it all becomes a bit numbing. Then again, we totally forgot to take Ecstasy.
While occasionally spiked with peppy, electro-new-wave gobbige, the set palls for a couple of reasons. One: If you happen to be of a certain age (as the band members are) to have heard this stuff the first time ’round, SWR present a highly derivative pastiche, with E-Z-2-spot references. Two: Those references’ superficial qualities have been selected, ordered and made into an equation, neglecting the crucial element of discernible melody. Nothing wrong with that, really, except that, technically speaking, you’ll only ever need one of their songs, ’cause they’re in essence all the same song.
This sort of recombinant gloom-goth new wave dance-chintz will never go away, we all know that, and this version is probably good company for the latest generation of sweet, lonely goth kids in need of like-minded others. That’s fine, ’twas ever thus. Interestingly, though, at the El Rey there was very little dancing going on.