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Bleached
Ride Your Heart John Freeman , April 8th, 2013 05:36

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Ah, the pop song – that shining, three-minute nugget of melodious ohrwurm. A song with a hook the size of Holland and a thrilling (and frequently annoying) ability to gnaw away at the subconscious for better or for worse. Often sneered at as being cheap and tacky - art parodying as lowest denominator unit-shifters – the notion of the 'perfect' pop song has an empiric purity and is an ultimately doomed ambition, even if The Beach Boys and ABBA got tantalisingly close.

Bleached are two sisters from Los Angeles and their debut album, Ride Your Heart, is stuffed full of pop songs. Jennifer and Jessica Clavin's pop gems are a sunny delight of fuzzy punk power chords and a gobsmack of heartache. From the initial bubbling guitar lines of opener 'Looking For A Fight', Ride Your Heart is a blast of timeless melody and speedball energy.

That's always been the neat thing about a pop song – it can be dressed up in all manner of paraphernalia. 'Pretty Vacant' by Sex Pistols is a pop song, as is Motörhead's 'Ace Of Spades'. They may be a snotty punk track and a slug of homicidal metal, but at their heart lies a fat hook and an instant impact. Pixies were a pop band – Carly Rae Jepsen could cover 'Gigantic' and send YouTube into meltdown. Pop can treat itself to all manner of disguises.

And Bleached know this. The sisters have created an album that uses their finely-tuned pop sensibility dipped in the spirit of The Ramones to backdrop Jennifer Clavin's tales of unrequited love, doomed relationships and gutless boyfriends. Take debut single 'Next Stop' - two-and-a-half minutes of full-throttled garage rock on which Clavin outlines the train wreck of a love affair - it's a thrillingly simple song and an utter delight.

While Ride Your Heart glitters and glides, Jennifer and Jessica's roots hark back to the blood and sweat of LA's punk scene. In their early teens the pair would sneak into downtown club The Smell, after crafting fake backstage passes, and overdose on vintage punk from bands such as The Adolescents, The Dickies, Black Flag, Circle Jerks and The Rezillos.

After getting bewitched by über-females like Siouxsie Sioux and The Slits, the sisters taught themselves how to play and eventually formed the moderately-successful punk band Mika Miko. When the band split in 2010, Jennifer relocated to New York, but would write with Jessica on her infrequent trips back to California. Those songs would become the initial Bleached singles. The sibling bond would not, and could not, be broken.

Indeed, part of the allure of Bleached is a deep sense of a band who've learned their craft and delivered a career-defining set of songs. Ride Your Heart is cocksure enough to belt through its dozen songs in 38 minutes. Each track, although dressed in punk scuzz, is whip-smart and perfectly framed. On the standout 'Outta My Mind', which allows a slinky verse to segue into stomping chorus, Jennifer half-complains, half-pleads that "my dreams keep giving me hope" about another relationship blow-out, before almost snarling "get outta my mind, boy" to some poor sap. It is classic pop, and brilliantly devoid of cliché.

The Clavin's gifts are strewn across Ride Your Heart. 'Dead In The Head' contains a pincer-movement two-part chorus that recalls Belly with added balls, while the magnificent 'Dreaming With You' is a Northern Soul-stomp of 60s sweetness soured with heartbreak. When Jennifer sings "When you see me on the street / Don't try and stop me / I'm already dreaming without you," across a lo-fi Wall of Sound it's as if the song was blessed with the spectre of Spector. 'Searching Through The Past' ("I've been searching through the past / Thinking about what we once had") - with the vocal melody leading proceedings - is ageless songwriting, while the spiky 'Dead Boy' owes as much to The Ronettes as it does to Joey Ramone.

The closing 'When I Was Yours' is the purest of Californian pop – a mix of love, loss and the warm glow of solar rays. Like a hipster version of The Bangles, Bleached conclude Ride Your Heart sounding blissed out and messed up. "I wanted to waste away with a boy like you until the end of time / Take me back to when I was yours"," Jennifer coos on the album's final swipe at what could have been. Heartbreak, thankfully, has a nasty habit of sounding gloriously good.

Fielding Melish
Apr 9, 2013 12:15am

Nice review. I picked this record up last week and loved it as much as you seem to have.

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