She-Devils - She-Devils

by Jason Atkinson Rating:8 Release Date:2017-05-19

When Carol King and Gerry Goffin wrote the tune “The Loco-motion” in 1962, they were at a loss as to who might sing it. That is until they went home and asked their babysitter Eva Boyd to take a crack. Soon enough, “Little Eva” found herself on black and white sets the world over, singing and trying to smile; “The Loco-motion” was a blow-up hit that launched her career and changed her life. Yet, despite the fame and fortune, there is a bit of a deer-in-the-headlights look in Little Eva’s eyes as she grapples with the chaos of fame and the medium of television. It, TV, was so new then—people didn’t know how to handle it. Her eyes—a certain innocence. A bit of discomfort in her body. We seldom see this in artists of today; people are so slick now, comfortable in front of the camera. But in the case of Little Eva and those of her era (Martha and the Vandellas, Ritchie Valens)—there was an undeniable awkwardness.

The She-Devils, in their self-titled debut, ape on that awkwardness. They play with it a bit, writing innocent sounding songs with a healthy dollop of post-irony. It’s a heady blend of elements, especially taken with their video “Come”, which depicts lead singer Audrey Ann Boucher looking dead-eyed into the camera while wearing a shift dress and a mod hairstyle. At one point she wraps herself in plastic while her androgynous male-hipster bandmate turns some knobs on a mixing board. The song is both a straightforward song of female empowerment and, due to its strange energy, a valid indictment of a historically male-dominated music industry.

Audrey Ann Boucher's voice puts the She-Devils over the top, in my opinion, helping to clearly manifest these ideas. It’s not a sentimental voice. It’s straightforward and robust, sometimes evoking The Go-Go’s, Peaches, and Chrissie Hynde. It is consistent throughout the entire album and lovely to listen to. From “Hey Boy,” with elements of Serge Gainsbourg (with space-age instrumental parts from Kyle Jukka) to the sad refrain on “Buffalo,” groaning on and on with “Why won’t you love me the way I love/why won’t you let me be myself.”

The album incorporates a variety of 50’s 60’s stylistic elements. A western feel kicks in with “I’ll Make You Pay,” where Boucher tells us that she has “a gun in her pocket and is ready to fire,” due to, possibly, the indiscretions of some weak-minded man-boy from Mile-Ex, or some other hip section of Montreal. “Darling,” channels a Nancy Sinatra “Boots Are Made for Walking” devil-may-care vibe. “How Do You Feel,” borrows a bit from Nico and The Velvet Underground.

“Blooming” is the strongest song on the album with a catchy chorus and throbbing morass of acoustic guitars. I’m reminded of The Cranberries on the chorus here, where Boucher has a chance to show off her vocal ability. The lyrical content of the song remains thematically similar to what came before, a tale of twenty-somethings who are dating; a girl deciding whether she should go home with a guy. “I don’t want to go back home with you tonight,” she sings. “Maybe I need another day or two to make up my mind, I don’t know you/you’re so young/I’m so young.” The lyrics are a very raw and straightforward account of the sheer tedium of the dating process.

“You Don’t Know” and “The World Laughs” continue in very much the same vein, while “Never Let Me Go” acts as a real departure, sort of a Brill Building on acid sound with a bit of a nod to reverb-soaked bands like Panda Bear and Neon Indian.

Halfway through my review of this album, I was reminded of the Joni Mitchell song “Taming the Tiger.”

“The moon shed light
On my hopeless plight
As the radio blared so bland
Every disc, a poker chip
Every song just a one night stand
Formula music, girly guile
Genuine junk food for juveniles
Up and down the dial
Mercenary style”

She-Devils music has a lot to recommend it, but, musically and lyrically, I think they owe it to themselves to try and go a little bit deeper. The sort of affectation they have worked with here was interesting, but it left me wanting a bit more substance at times. To bring this back to Little Eva: the story goes that her boyfriend abused her after she became famous. Goffin/King, then, wrote a song about that incident, responding this way:

“Yes, he hit me and it felt like a kiss
He hit me and I knew I loved him
And then he took me in his arms
With all the tenderness there is
And when he kissed me, he made me his”

It was performed by The Crystals with (of all people) Phil Spector producing. Standing on the shoulders of individuals like Goffin/King and Joni Mitchell, I sincerely wish The She-Devils well. Buy their music and follow their career, because I suspect it is going to be a great one.

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