She Wants Revenge have been much maligned with accusations of being too derivative. Pick any 1980s icon – The Cure, Bauhaus, INXS, Joy Division, Depeche Mode, Modern English, even – and SWR have been shunned for sounding too much like it.
Granted, SWR do wear their influences proudly over their hearts, but to dismiss them outright is unfair. The ’80s prove to be a fine place to pilfer ingredients; however, the allure of SWR is how they mix their inspirations to weave a dark, synth-pop noise that bears their mark.
On Valleyheart, their third full-length release, they’ve refined their recipes and, moreso than on previous efforts, their signature emerges. “Take the World” opens the album and announces their return with authority, a catchy keyword riff interspersed with a chunky guitar, and a domineering rock beat. The result is big and demonstrates their growth as a band.
This progress continues through the rest of the album, as “Kiss Me,” “Up in Flames,” the shimmering “Little Stars” and the seductive “Reasons” demonstrate a real control of their influences, showcasing SWR’s artistic development all while maintaining an allegiance to their record collections.
Thematically, Justin Warfield’s lyrics are fixated on lust, desperation and loneliness; strangely, his vocal delivery keeps his obsessions fresh with whispers, screams and croons.
Sadly, for all of the nuances he creates lyrically and vocally, Warfield loses the plot on the lyrically silly and goofily unsubtle “Holiday Song,” which as the second-to-last song is Valleyheart’s only throwaway.
Thankfully, SWR rights the ship on the closer, “Maybe She’s Right,” which pulsates and drives into familiar yet new terrain and, despite its closing refrain (“Never coming back again”), it ends the album on a high with the promise that the band’s next release will be even stronger – no easy feat.
–Chris “Gutter” Rose