"She Wants Revenge" (Flawless/Geffen)
* * 1/2
"Take my hand and smack me in the mouth, my love," Justin Warfield sings with booming solemnity in "Monologue," one of the twisted love songs that fill this single-minded debut album (in stores Tuesday).
The L.A. duo of Warfield and Adam Bravin has packed the disc with tales of decadence and dysfunction, which shouldn't surprise anyone who's caught their radio hit "Tear You Apart," a precisely detailed depiction of a couple's surrender to lust that includes the off-the-wall caution "there's always repercussions when you're dating in school." (Women who complain that men keep everything bottled up should be impressed by SWR's inclination toward exhaustive wordiness.)
"Tear You Apart" might not even be the catchiest song on the album, which rolls along at a relentlessly driving pace (with a couple of ballad breaks). The retro '80s sound settles in a narrow range between Joy Division spareness and Killers lushness, but as worked up as Warfield gets and as steamy as the situations might be, there's always something icy about the music.
There's a surprising emotional generosity in some of the songs, but instead of handling these lurid scenarios with a shadowy, noir touch, SWR tends to shine a floodlight on them, making it all hard-edged and vivid instead of mysterious. Some matters are better served by suggestion.
Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).