Halley Devestern,
Superhero Killer
(Bagel&Rat, 2003)

At first, Halley Devestern sounds like a postmodern Janice Joplin. She's got a high-pitched wail and sings with a focused fury not unlike the '60s chanteuse. That's a wrong first impression, because Halley uses a familiar vocal style to create her own intense form of music. In the typical rock songs, everything is loud -- the guitars, the drums and especially Halley. When she sings in a mellow tone (it happens a few times), it's rather hard to hear her. Maybe that's why she's screaming -- she just wants to be heard. And hear her you will.

Superhero Killer is an intense juxtaposition of serious tone and catchy music. Her lyrics have this edgy bordering-on-rage quality, tackling a variety of issues, yet the music has this mainstream pop-radio sound. The effect is a head-scratching "What the...?" Even the title is a bit of an oxymoron. Well, contrasting elements must be the theme of the entire album.

The most obvious songs are the title track and "Glow-in-the-Dark Baby Jesus." "Superhero Killer" is an examination of ending childhood innocence and introducing adulthood. This is not your typical child-must-grow-up song. It's more of dealing with harsh reality and the realization that the safe tenets of childhood (superheroes, Daddy, etc.) will not be there to protect and comfort you. "Glow-in-the-Dark Baby Jesus" combines a religious figure with a cheap dime-store effect, providing a commentary on the overcommercialization of religion and its supposed accessibility.

Another example is "Seashell." The word usually conjures up innocent concepts and memories associated with beaches, right? Oh, no. Not this time. Think of what a seashell actually is -- a remnant of death swept onto a beach. True to the "contrast" theme, this song varies from her typical sound of guitars-and-drums and takes on a cabaret/jazz club atmosphere with a slow tempo and a very nice piano accompaniment.

Superhero Killer is not a pleasant album. With titles like "Cancer of the Mind," "I'm Dead Too" and "Strangled in the Park," don't expect to be uplifted. Don't pick this out if you're looking for an entertaining sound with amicable lyrics. This is an album with depth that will challenge your perceptions. Anytime you're in an introspective mood, check out Superhero Killer by Halley Devestern.

- Rambles
written by C. Nathan Coyle
published 1 May 2004

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