On their second album, Rival Island, the four lads in She Sir take the textbook shoegaze-meets-dream-pop sound of their debut and give it a twist -- just enough to give anyone who fell under the hazy, gently hooky spell of Go Guitars the kind of subtle jolt that a good follow-up should deliver. There is still enough guitar goo and pedal wash to keep the staunchest fan of pure 1992 sounds quite happy; the band hasn't forsaken its Pale Saints albums in favor of something less cloudy. She Sir add some softer textures and guitars that chime as much as they gaze. They lean a little more in the direction of the '80s, most specifically the time when bands like the Cure or the Church buried their quirks in lush blooms of reverb and chorus, slavering on enough to blur every last rough edge. A stray saxophone also lurks in the bushes on a couple tracks, poised to scare the pants off anyone drifting into a chime-induced coma. The strict shoegazers in the audience might find these slight upgrades to be fatal flaws, but for those who are more forgiving and like the occasional surprise, the sound of Rival Island comes off as a slight improvement. She Sir sound less like they are interpreting sacred texts and more like they are doing some soft experimentation with the ultimate goal of forging their own idiosyncratic sound, which is something that should be encouraged. All of which would be academic if She Sir wrote bad songs. They don't. The bandmembers know that sound isn't enough; there also have to be melodies that stick in the mind ("DBS," "Private Party"), sway like new lovers ("Pheromondo [Babysitter's Back]"), create some heavy atmosphere ("Dark Glass Tomb," "Corporealoro"), or tenderly break a heart (the feather-light and pretty "Quinine Courts"). All the songs share a very similar feel and fit together like puzzle pieces, letting the listener sink deeply into the pillowy clouds of guitars, gentle drums, and almost whispered vocals. She Sir aren't going to wow people with Rival Island, but the band may lull them into a peaceful and almost transcendent state of relaxation, which isn't a bad goal considering the turbulent times in which the album was made.
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AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra