By Eleni P. Austin
2013 may go down in Pop Culture history as The Summer Of Sharknado or Televised Twerking. Maybe 2013 is the year giant Foam Fingers everywhere unite and form a support group. But for discerning music fans, 2013 will be remembered as the summer Bleached released their debut album, Ride Your Heart.
Bleached is the brainchild of Jennifer and Jessica Clavin. The sisters grew up deeeep in the San Fernando Valley obsessed with Punk Rock. After puberty hit, the girls would ride the bus to Hollywood and further, seeking musical inspiration.
All-Ages venue like The Smell, in downtown L.A. provided a safe environment for the girls to indulge their Punk Rock jones. Seeing bands like Abe Vigoda, No Age and Lavender Diamond motivated the sisters to pick up guitars.
By high school, the Clavins were part of the distaff Punk five-piece, Mika Miko. The band was moderately successful, touring with Black Lips and The Gossip.
When Mika Miko called it quits in 2009, Jennifer and Jessica briefly went their separate ways, pursuing non-musical interests. Jennifer even moved to New York to study fashion, but their separation was short lived.
The sisters reunited in L.A. and formed Bleached. They immediately began playing live and released a handful of 7” singles. After honing their sound onstage, they recorded their full-length debut, Ride Your Heart.
The album opens with the one-two punch of “Looking For A Fight” and “Next Stop.” The buoyant melody on “Looking For A Fight” belies the lyrics’ belligerent tone. Slashing, downstroke guitar riffs, throbbing bass lines and a kinetic beat hold everything together. A soaring Surf-Guitar crests over the top of the instrumentation.
“Next Stop” weds a breakneck backbeat with slippery, psychedelic harmonies and sinuous guitar fills. The hook-filled melody camouflages the pain of long distance romance… “Next stop I’m waiting for the train, next stop smoking in the rain/Next stop kissing you goodbye, next stop tears in your eyes.”
Three tracks blend shimmery, Girl Group harmonies with Fuzz-tastic Punk Pop melodies. “Outta My Mind” is tethered to a loping, clip-clop rhythm accentuated by Vibes. In the aftermath of a break-up, resolve easily crumbles… “Sleep to dream of what we once had, because you know I’m just a fool.”
The chunky chord progression and chugging beat on “Dreaming Of You” is accented by a swooping seagull guitar solo. The vocals boomerang between Shangri-La sincerity and a nonchalant tone that echoes Blondie.
On “Dead Boy,” whip-crack percussion and muscular guitar riffs cushion classic Girl Group sentiments, “I’ll keep on living for the dead boy that I love.” The tune accelerates toward conclusion, ratcheting the tempo toward warp speeds.
The action slows on two tracks, “Dead In Your Head” and “Searching Through The Past.” The former is anchored by sinewy bass lines. Staccato guitar riffs detonate like smart bombs. The lyrics resonate with romantic recrimination… “Time to think about what you lost.”
The latter blends piquant toy piano and a metronome beat. Snaking guitar riffs slither through piano keys. The vocals pinball between urgent and mournful.
The best tracks here offer pure Punk for now people. “Waiting By The Telephone” pounds out a triple time tattoo and tensile riff-age that recalls X, the Dickies and the Ramones.
The title track is a skittery delight. Deadpan vocals are matched by an angular guitar that fuzzes and buzzes. Bubbling underneath are surprising clarinet and organ fills. The whole thing collapses in a sweaty, feedback-drenched heap.
The sweetest surprise is “A Guy Like You.” A relax-fit Bo Diddly beat and swoony lap steel style guitar coalesce. It’s an unexpected combination that moves Bleached beyond the confines of Punk.
The album closes with “When I Was Yours.” A withering denouement, the track’s crunchy, candy coating yields to a sugary soft center. Slap-back bass and timpani drums feel like a brittle homage to Phil Spector. But the Clavins cleave to the Punk Rock Gods as the track spirals to completion with chaotic intensity.
The Clavin sisters manage most of the instruments themselves. Jennifer handles lead vocals, guitar piano and percussion. Jessica tackles guitar, harmony vocals, bass, percussion and lap steel. Dan Allaire plays the drums.
The obvious antecedents to Bleached are the Ramones, Blondie, Runaways and the Go-Go’s. But astute listeners might also catch traces of Gun Club, Stevie Nicks, Merle Haggard, the Cure, the Smiths and the Replacements.
Ride Your Heart is an amazing debut from two sisters who don’t feel the need to assert their independence at the end of a foam finger. In a perfect world, talent trumps infamy.