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Hey Violet: From the Outside (Capitol)

Jun. 13, 2017
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Hey Violet was once Cherri Bomb, an all-female rock band whose members were teenagers, as hinted at by the band’s name, a sidelong reference to a fantastic song, “Cherry Bomb,” by The Runaways, another all-female rock band whose members were teenagers. 

After one great album, 2012’s This Is the End of Control, lead singer and lead guitarist Julia Pierce left (not by her choice, she’s said), former bassist Rena Lovelis took over on vocals and the band changed its name. 

It also changed its sound: “Break My Heart,” which opens From the Outside, immediately snaps the ear to attention with a riff that could’ve been cribbed from Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” period, but pitch-shifted background whirling and a reminder of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” transform the song into full-on mainstream-angled pop. 

Lovelis helps the transformation: now 19, she’s nonetheless a more “girlish” singer than Pierce ever was, and she can coo and pout the way Swift can and the way Avril Lavigne used to do.

What was tough in Cherri Bomb is merely naughty in Hey Violet: plastic drumbeat and a candy-colored chorus banish any sense of lunacy from “Hoodie” and its confession to an obsession with an ex’s piece of clothing, while “Guys My Age” spray-paints neon dubstep (and more pitch-shifting) across its sub-Lolita implications.

Thanks in part to producer Julian Bunetta, whose credits include work with One Direction, there is tunefulness inside everything, even “All We Ever Wanted,” which aims for the chanting fun of Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” and lands closer to some misguided Kelly Clarkson-Iggy Azalea collab.

At the end of From the Outside, Hey Violet revisits its past with “This Is Me Breaking Up with You,” a snotty little rocker that could pass for a Cherri Bomb B-side. It’s easy enough to get into the band’s current licentious likability and very hard not to miss its adolescent-punk attitude.

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