30 Sep 2023

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S H E - Single/Video Review: Everything Was In Black And White

19 Oct 2022 // A review by Nicholas Clark
Everything Was In Black and White is the newest single from Wellington’s S H E, and it packs a wallop.

The band have described their sound as "Lady Gaga meets My Bloody Valentine" and although I was sceptical of such a description at first, it all makes sense when you hear the song (or see the fantastic video that features members in drag alter-egos and is shot in glorious 4K, and of course, in black and white).

The song begins with a repeating guitar line from Ben Evans that is deceptively simple, but layers of synth and complex drumming soon add to the sonic weave that form this pop/rock song. Although the sound is appealing and catchy, the lyrics hint at violence and the memory of an incident.

During the song, the guitar forms the backbone for everything else to depend on. Synths weave in and out of the mix but are most prominent at the end of each chorus, while the competent drumming of Frazer Skerman skips above the mix in a shimmery frequency usually inhabited by jazz musicians. There are some impressive fills here that really add to the urgency of the track. The vocals of Jim Bailey hold back during the verse, featuring an echo response, but come forward in the chorus to become truly epic.

There is a definite influence of 2000’s emo music here; but I refer to the best elements of the sub-genre, such as emotionally charged vocal delivery, tasteful use of synth, and a nice little solo that isn’t flashy so much as identifying the climax of the song with bends and feedback. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Killers and Placebo (along with perhaps sophisticated jazz) are influences I can hear in the mix.

The synth leads at the end of the chorus are particularly appealing and anthemic, perfectly bringing the listener back to the verse again. Very neat and considered.

The lyrics are interesting as they seem to change position from victim, to witness, to culprit – or it seems to anyway. Before the band lurches into the chorus and repeating the song’s name (a common recurrence for some people remembering traumatic experiences) the singer also reminds us that ‘I don’t know what I was doing there I know it wasn’t right, but everybody’s got their vice...’.

There is enough here to safely state the song is about violence, but the message is ambivalent and flexible enough to refer to a range of readings (which is probably safest). Perhaps my own reading of multiple personalities stems from the use of different outfits in the fast-paced video shot in an op shop, but made brilliant through the use of fast, clever editing and multiple costumes.

My favourite lyric is without a doubt the poetic "my tell-tale heart it beats too loud" which is emblematic of the band and a poetic way to be discovered by a murderer.

The drumming slows, whilst complex fills abound, and the guitar takes the song to a gentle close with some subtle whammy bar bends, before a wash of synths ends the song and then abruptly ends.

Altogether the single is hard to criticize. Nothing overstays its welcome while the energy and drama remain high throughout. The visual imagery of the vocals work well to increase the tension and the music rides this wave of antagonism from the beginning to the end.

It’s a perfect little pop gem with a dirty mouth and some suspicious blood stains on the floor...

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )

About S H E

Frenzied drums, soaring vocals, glitchy synths, feedback soaked guitars and hooks for days.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for S H E


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