A band makes a particular statement when they release an eponymous record. It is a way of saying ‘this is who we are, this is our sound’. So, what are alt-rock garage revivalist duo Blood Red Shoes saying about themselves on this, their fourth full-length studio release?
‘Blood Red Shoes’ is an album that takes modern pop sensibilities, with its focus on melody, and wraps it in the fuzzy warmth of early nineties grunge and late nineties garage rock. The soft sexiness that dominated the band’s previous album, ‘In Time To Voices’, has taken a back seat. Their sound is rocked-up, fuzzed out and drenched in a raw attitude. This duo might be more familiar with the dreary Brighton skies and an ice cream on the pier, but their noise cries urban decay more akin to the underground garage rock scene abundant in stateside rock clubs.
This record has two gears: garage rock bombast to singe the eyebrows, interspersed with introspective pop with massive choruses. Both styles are deftly executed, and the album ebbs and flows pleasantly between the two. There may only be two of them making any noise, but they know how to fill the spectrum and flush the senses with rasping, sultry sound. The album feels hot.
Yes, their influences may bubble under the surface; the jaunty riffage and waif-like vocals of ‘Don’t Get Caught’ recalling the best of Josh Homme, ‘The Perfect Mess’‘s fuzz-punk attack playing like a long-lost Babes In Toyland track; but these are cosmetic similarities. Beneath, there throbs a unique heartbeat all their own.
The highlight of ‘Blood Red Shoes’ comes mid-album (where most settle in for a slump of filler), with the effective contrast of ghostly shoegaze sway in ‘Stranger’, shot through with emotional poignancy, and the stomping ‘Speech Coma’ which possesses the strongest chorus the band have written since 2012’s ‘Cold’. If there’s one criticism that can be levelled at the album, it’s that closer ‘Tightwire’ lets the intensity drop when it should be reaching its pinnacle. As a swan song to an album with such a strong attitude, the track feels jarring in its lifelessness and, because of this, the listener is left in limbo.
With this eponymous effort, Blood Red Shoes have crafted a satisfying slab of garage rock. It’s caustic and dangerous but also soulful and sensual, signalling a step up in the dynamism of their sound from previous releases. Where they go from here is an exciting prospect.
Written by Grant Bailey