Album Review: Welcome Back To Milk - Du Blonde
Writers: Beth Jeans Houghton and Samuel T Herring (Future Islands)
Producers: Jim Sclavunos, Youth and Beth Jeans Houghton
Record Label: Mute Song Ltd and Ideas for Housecrafts (ASCAP)
This album is about as far away from Beth Jeans Houghton's (Du Blonde) debut LP Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose as you can get.
Instead of Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose's "pixie pop" (NME) and "straight up gorgeousness" (The Observer), Welcome Back To Milk is a snarling ball of pent up aggression.
Who is Du Blonde?
Du Blonde is Beth Jeans Houghton, a 24-25 year old alternative rock singer from Newcastle. From 2007 to 2012, Houghton was in a band called The Hooves of Destiny alongside Dav Shiel, Edward Blazey, Rory Gibson, Findlay McAskill and Calum Howard (who both feature on Welcome Back To Milk as a backing vocalist and keys player respectively).
The band produced easy listening pop music for dare I say it an older generation. In November 2012, Houghton broke up The Hooves of Destiny as she did not like the sound of the album the band was creating. She turned to producer Jim Sclavunos (member of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and Grinderman) to turn her into a harder, tougher and meaner version of herself and that is just what he did.
What is the album like?
This album is really an album of two halves. The stronger more dominant half is the head banging, drum fuelled rock side of Du Blonde and the other half side of the album has calmer, softer and more meditative feel to it.
Let's start with the rock! About six songs on the album are heavy with drum and guitar riffs, sounding like they belong to a seasoned rocker not a "debut" album from somebody whose last album sounded completely different. Some of my favourite songs on the album are found in this section and hopefully if you buy the album or lend it off someone you know, you will agree with me.
Black Flag the opener of the album gives a tantalising glimpse of what is to come in the album. From its opening guitar riff sounding like something from an Arctic Monkey's album, fans of Du Blonde knew immediately that this was not going to be just another run of the mill album. The aggression in the song is clear and is not veiled at all. Sadly, Houghton's song writing ability is not at its best, which adds a slight damper to the song.
The second song on the album Chips To Go in my opinion is a much better song. Its quirky title reminds me slightly of a Friday lunchtime queuing for chips at school, but, the actual song is among one of my favourites on the album. I really like the unusual guitar riff at the beginning of the song, which Du Blonde mimics throughout the song.
Finally, the most aggressive song on the album Mr Hyde has elements of glam rock running through the chorus but happily without the guitar solo we have to come expect from the glam rock genre. The thing which puts put me off this song is the amount of swearing in the song. The song would be so much better if "f***ing" and "s***" had not been repeated about seven times throughout.
Now for the calmer section of the album. The piano based Four In The Morning is a lovely refreshing change from some of the heavier songs in the album. The song showcases some of Houghton's songwriting at its best with lyrics such as "They sky turns green/as the leaves turn gold" describing dawn and "time has worn you out".
Hunter like Mr Hyde has elements of glam rock incorporated in it, but unlike Mr Hyde, Hunter is a much more plaintive and calm song. Here again, Houghton's song writing is good, leading me to consider whether Houghton is better suited to ballads rather than aggressive rock.
The saddest song on this album featuring a sample of Du Blonde's grandmother Leslie Jeans at the beginning giving some worldly wisdom, which for some reason brings me to tears every time I hear it. The lilting piano, calming strings and filter on Du Blonde's voice makes the song sound like it comes from the 1950s and from a time where music was so much simpler.
I'd highly recommend buying this album if you like indie music, alternative rock or are just up for listening to a good new artist.
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