ALBUM REVIEW: Du Blonde – Welcome Back to Milk | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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three half

 

Mute Records

Released: 18.05.15

More information on Du Blonde’s official website

 

A debut that isn’t: the name Du Blonde might not be familiar to you, and the figure staring at you from the cover, clad in trainers and merkin and not much else, might not jog the memory banks either. But you know her alright, from a previous life.

The artist formerly known as Beth Jeans Houghton returns to us now, but in a very different form. Welcome Back to Milk is an album full of denouncements and rebirths, striking out at all manner of adversaries and targets whilst wriggling out of old discarded skin to stand proud in a new identity. The Houghton you knew doesn’t live here any long, so say hello to your new wild-child friend Du Blonde.

Accordingly then, this is a lively, taut rock record that keeps the songs economical but the characters outsized. Ribald, sometimes destructive sexuality is a recurring theme throughout, as is the ingrained sexism and double-standards that so often emerge: the one-two punch of Black Magic, with its sledge-hammer subtle chorus “What it is like, what is it like, to fuck your mistress with her hands tied?” and the percussion led stomp of Mr. Hyde are steamrollering rock songs that ask not for your permission but instead demand your attention.

There are of course moments when the past does filter its way in – After The Show and Isn’t It Wild are vaudeville ballads that make the old time seem other worldly, while the superb Raw Honey might represent the moment where the quizzical folk melodies of her earlier work filter their way in through the distorted guitars of the now. Even then, in this context there’s a stark, aggressive force as work new to Houghton’s songwriting and performance, whatever shackles she had placed upon herself before now thrown off.

The exploratory nature of this album might result in the odd misstep – My Mind Is On My Mind, complete with nails-on-the-chalkboard verse from the ever-egregious Samuel Herring of Future Islands, is a mess of a track – but the Du Blonde re-birth is no marketing stunt, rather than a radical shake-up of form and content from an artist who is now working out a version of herself few listeners would have ever previously imagined.

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