tremble clef

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Veronicas, "Revenge Is Sweeter (Than You Ever Were)" (2007)

There are only two songs I even vaguely like on the disappointing new album by The Veronicas. One is "Untouched," which will deservedly be the second single as well as, it would seem, an early fan favorite. Lyrically a kind of update of "Like A Virgin," the song is terrifically arranged: the urgent strings are at the forefront of what you'll hear, but they wouldn't work half as well if they were not juxtaposed against dementedly bouncy synths that are equal parts electroclash and happy hardcore, and those trashy, buzzsaw guitars.

Though less immediate, the other song worth repeated plays is "Revenge Is Sweeter (Than You Ever Were)." Its charms however come from a different place: namely, from the way it goes against much of the rest of the album, or, indeed, The Veronicas' entire sound. No, the song is not a startling big band number. The Origliasso twins traffic, of course, in teen angst, and most of the time they convey this by allowing their verses to build and build until things come to a head in the choruses, during which: be prepared to duck. On this album, unfortunately, it feels too much like we should also be prepared to turn down the volume or stick in the earplugs, because on Hook Me Up's choruses -- which tend to be not catchy enough, to boot -- the girls too often cross the line into shrieky bansheedom.

But not on "Revenge Is Sweeter": despite its title, which might make us expect extra spite and venom, the track begins almost as a ballad. On the pre-chorus, as synths arrive to join the chiming guitars, things predictably get more frenzied and shriller: "Are you even listening when I talk to you?/Do you even care what I'm going through?/Your eyes stare, and they're staring right through me/You're right there, but it's like you never knew me/Do you even know how much it hurts/That you gave up on me to be with her?" But then, quite unexpectedly, the tune deflates, trails off into the title line: "revenge is sweeter than you ever were." I love this downturn -- because, as I've suggested, it is a refreshing change from the way other Veronicas songs develop. But there's a bit more to it. When a Veronicas song turns up the volume and the intensity while going from verse to chorus, it acquires bravado; on "4Ever," for instance, the band is never surer that the night will last forever than during the "yeah yeah"s. In contrast, here on "Revenge Is Sweeter," Lisa and Jessica sound uncertain in the conclusion they supposedly reach; revenge might sweeter than he ever was, but the insight itself is bittersweet and offers considerably less consolation than we might expect. In that non-triumphant moment of ambivalence, the Veronicas for once sounds grown-up.

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