Artist: Blood Red Shoes
Title: Blood Red Shoes
Record Label: Jazz Life
It’s often been said that Brighton two piece, Blood Red Shoes are ‘too pop for rock fans and too rock for pop fans’. Over recent years, a scuzzy duo has become synonymous for a massive noise that doesn’t correlate to the sum of its parts. Take Deap Vally, DZ Deathrays and Drenge, these, like BRS are just two bodies with a drum kit and a guitar but where the South Coast inhabitants peers ramp it up when it comes to primal, visceral wares, Laura-Mary Carter and Steve Ansell seem happy to skirt around the outer jurisdictions of blitzkrieg never quite slipping into full demolition mode.
It was with the announcement of BRS’ fourth LP that hinted at the twosome plunging headlong into a sea of dirty riffs and shattered drum skins. Carter and Ansell chucked all their kit in a van and decamped to Berlin for a six month recording tenure that saw the duo produce themselves for the first time. It would be appropriate considering the DIY ethic poured into the band’s latest output, that BRS opted for an eponymous title to grace their fourth LP. Equally, BRS roared back into the limelight with the deliciously fuzzy, ‘The Perfect Mess’. Akin to Carter losing the plectrum in favour of playing her guitar with an electric eel, BRS growl and scream with a glorious cacophony. Could this be the stripped back, no fuss record that the two piece have hinted at previously? Initial signs are good with ‘Blood Red Shoes’ commencing to the sound of raging riffs and Ansell’s hectic tub-thumping channelling ‘Welcome Home’s brutal clarion call. It’s the one-two punch of ‘Everything All At Once’ and ‘An Animal’ that keeps the noise levels in the red, again savaged guitar lines and rock-fall drumming are what makes the first third of the album such a ferocious proposition. Even Ansell himself seems aghast by ‘An Animal’ when you hear the drummer at the beginning of the track mutter “Ah man, this is nasty” before an eruption of belching garage rock that’s as raw as a freshly grazed knee.
Then comes the sea change, the band’s fourth LP, slides into a more expansive, poignant stance. The noise levels are still there but the garage punk urgency is dissipated for the likes of ‘Grey Smoke’s sultry swagger and ‘Far Away’s plaintive reminiscent tones. The edges of the record are softened when Carter and Ansell’s vocals harmonise, adding a layered sheen of pop over the top of anything remotely filthy. Plus, where ‘Welcome Home’ kicks in your front door and grabs you by the scuff of the neck to signal ‘Blood Red Shoe’s arrival, ‘Tightwire’ merely apologises for the commotion, wipes its feet and departs with its tail between its legs. What we wanted was a matching bookend finale but ‘Tightwire’ doesn’t measure up to the opening salvo in ‘Blood Red Shoes’ cannon.
Ultimately, for a band that are decade into their craft and still making vital, primitive rock ‘n’ roll it’s charming to witness the duo switch from guttural, snarling missives to something more widescreen and dare we say it, mature. However there is a nagging feeling that ‘Blood Red Shoes’ could have been the record where Carter and Ansell spit out a collection of tracks that snare in their punkier mind set.
For the moment, they are and this is ‘Blood Red Shoes’.
Words and Thoughts of Adam Williams