Friday, April 12, 2013

Bleached Rides Some Hearts Hard

Mika Miko might not have ended the way Jennifer and Jessica Clavin intended. The often dark and always trashy throwback punk band that was spawned from Dead Banana Ladies played on for almost a decade. They produced two albums, with the sophomore album progressively better than their debut.

The downside, however, was that We Be Xuxa caused the band to question the potency of studio sessions compared to their onstage performances. And shortly after, they decided to call it quits in favor of other projects. Jennifer Clavin even took a break from music, moving to New York.

When she got there, fashion design wasn't enough to keep her attention so she signed on as keyboardist with Cold Cave. Meanwhile, her sister continued playing with another band, Cold Showers, in Los Angeles. It wasn't until Jennifer returned to Los Angeles that the two would try something new.

Bleached is the cleaner sound created by the Clavin sisters, reunited. 

If there was any tension between the two over the split of Mika Miko, nobody would ever be able to tell listening to Bleached. Although it took some time to get it right across several singles released since 2010, the Clavin sisters' new full-length debut is nothing less than masterful. 

Gone are the early rough cut meanderings of Francis released by Ooga Booga records two years ago. The fact is that the new album, Ride Your Heart, is even cleaner and more polished than Searching Through The Past put out Suicide Squeeze Records. The Clavin sisters have clearly found themselves.

The post-punk fueled release might be late by any measure, but it is packed with hooks, drums, and smartly written lyrics. Much of it is cynical but presented in the most palatable way. Even the more morose moments are underpinned with an urgent cheeriness that feels decades away from their roots. 

Next Stop careens across the California countryside with little bits of repeatable life, looking backward from a more reflective age of 35. The resolution isn't the same, either. It isn't the same the second time and it will likely feel different again in a decade. Until next time. 

Equally striking is Dead In Your Head. The track might pretend to be about lost love, but it cuts much deeper. It's really about life, all those things that you might regret — choices made and opportunities missed — the kind of stuff that hits you hard when you wake up and think that you might have fucked up.

That's not to say that the entire album is bigger than it needs to be. Outta My Head is simpler, a song dedicated exclusively to breaking up with a boy. The opening track, Looking For A Fight, is also simple — it's exactly how anybody might feel when they come home after a bad day and warn everyone to make a wide path. Dreaming Without You does much the same, except to some non-descript former lover left behind and maybe forgotten.

The balance of the 12-track album carries the theme forward. Most of it is about heartbreak on the sun-drenched beaches and deserts that surround California. Sure, there is still a sense of nostalgia indicative of what the Clavin sisters have done in the past (with a little help from Jonathan Safley this time), but there is something fresh and dreamier about their mature take on the California girl myth.

All together, there isn't a track to be missed. From the title track to Ride Your Heart and Dead Boy to everything mentioned above, there are no duds. There isn't any question that Ride Your Heart is the best work ever produced by the Clavin sisters. 

Ride Your Heart By Bleached Strips 9.4 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

Sure, there are some people who will think Ride Your Heart came out a decade too late and the material is too mundane. That might be if the only measure of success is some surge in interest. Maybe there will be. Maybe not. But that doesn't deny the truth that it is a masterfully crafted album about female angst with a foundation of post-punk compositions that push in all directions. 

Ride Your Heart by Bleached can be picked up on Amazon. You can find the LP at Barnes & Noble or download Ride Your Heart at iTunes. Every track is worth the album price as mentioned, with the first five songs among the best of a great album that fits the big American and European tour planned out on Facebook.
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