Bleached, ‘Ride Your Heart’ – Album Review
'Ride Your Heart' is the debut album from L.A's Bleached, but if you want to trace the band's origins, you can start after the 2009 breakup of Jennifer and Jessica Clavin's previous collaboration, local favorite Mika Miko. And while a couple of years and a stint for Jennifer in Cold Cave delayed the group's first single, it's still been two years since the sisters began pumping out 7-inches, with no clear road map detailing if, when or for whom they might record a full-length.
As is often the case with such long-awaited debuts, expectations are high for the duo (now backed by drummer Jonathan Safley). 'Ride Your Heart' is neither a collection of past singles -- though 'Searching Through the Past' resurfaces here -- nor another trip through previously explored territory. Bleached have somehow teased an album for years and surprised with the final result.
That doesn't mean 'Ride Your Heart' is a home run, but by not leaning solely on their Ramone-ettes sound and everywoman concerns, they require listeners to check their preconceptions at the door. Bleached are still playing within the fields of of classic punk and girl groups, but they expand on these sounds. Unfortunately, they show less care with the lyrics, often falling back on lazy, lowest-common-denominator themes centering on vague feelings about boys.
On the worst offender, 'Waiting By the Telephone,' Bleached are frustratingly content to spend two minutes describing the act of waiting for a boy to call. It might have simply been an ignorable track, but the line "He's my guy / and I won't be letting him wait" is beyond inane. Jennifer Clavin walks that line where playing into gender stereotypes might be a disservice to the young girls that her confident rock music inspires, portraying herself as a subordinate to men. Granted, like Charles Barkley before her, Clavin never asked to be a role model, but considering the demographic Bleached seemingly aim for, it's not a responsible attitude, and it's disappointing to hear from the same voice that opens the album "looking for a fight" from her partner in a similarly uncertain romance.
The most successful moments on 'Ride Your Heart' find the Clavin sisters taking risks that expand their range to include post-punk and '80s touchstones. 'Dead In Your Heart' is a different world for Bleached -- one where Ric Ocasek and the Waitresses are as beloved as Joey and Johnny. Indeed, you might argue that any one of the three separate hooks holds the song together. On 'Outta My Mind,' the Clavins reach even further back, positioning themselves as a Motown girl group backed by the Stones. On 'Dreaming Without You' and the title-track, they paint over-saturated memories with melodies that glow with familiarity, as if Jennifer Clavin is an archeologist unearthing never-before-seen relics from a time that listeners have never experienced. In a sense, the band's name is not a great representation of their capabilities.
On 'Guy Like You,' the Clavin sisters get intimate with the listener, using guitar strums as the primary percussion, evoking the image of the two women in a bedroom, using their musical talents to express their love problems. It's a lovely glimpse at where these girls came from, and to where they can always retreat: to the permanence in life that is family. It's also a reminder that that the Clavins have grown up, and that there is more than life than the boy that breaks your heart. Bleached have the musical gifts to excite, but there's a limit to the number of generic love songs people should be subjected to. The music is likely to become far less enjoyable if it becomes their trend.