New To Us – Du Blonde

When one burns one’s bridges, what a very nice fire it makes.
Dylan Thomas

In the build up to the release of her upcoming album, today’s featured artist has spoke very openly on the topic of her own anger-

“What am I pissed off about? In no particular order: the free wheeling judgement of faceless accusers online, every man and his dog giving me advice on how to live my life, what to wear, what not to say, how to write songs. Being asked if I’m on my period in business meetings. Being told to ‘just deal with’ misogyny. It’s clear that the message for young girls in the music, business and relationships, is still ‘shut up, do what you’re told and be thankful’.”

Spot on raging we’re sure you’ll agree! However a quick flick around the internet and it’s clear when people sing angry songs they still look at gangster-rap and metal as the twin-bastions of rage. Sure Rage Against The Machine, Eminem and Slipknot all did angry; but sometimes you can express anger without screaming, being overtly hostile, or whilst being a man!

Thom Yorke’s solo album gave us Harrodown Hill, a rage filled exploration into the death of Dr. David Kelly, a biological warfare expert for the British government and a former United Nations weapons inspector, who’s suspicious death was ruled as suicide shortly before he was set to testify at a parliamentary committee investigating the invasion of Iraq, “don’t walk the plank like I did, you will be dispensed with when you become inconvenient.”  It’s a quiet rage against the government, against illegal wars and against the Ministry of Justice, and an entirely uncomfortable listen!

Bikini Kill’s superbly disturbing track, White Boy is quite possibly the most rightfully angry track ever written, it’s dissection of the ludicrous idea that women are in some way asking to be raped because of “the way they act, the way they…I… I can’t say they way they dress because that’s their own personal choice” before Kathleen Hanna, arguably the worlds finest expresser of anger, concludes “I’m so sorry if I’m alienating some of you, your whole fucking culture alienates me I can not scream from pain down here on my knees, I’m so sorry that I think! White boy… Don’t laugh… Don’t cry… Just die!”

Everyone get’s angry sometimes, just look at Bob Dylan, he wrote some of the most bitter songs you’ll ever come across, take Like A Rolling Stone, a song where he bitterly tells someone down on their luck how they got themselves in this mess and won’t get themselves out of it, and has there ever been a better put down than “you’re an idiot babe, it’s a wonder you still know how to move your mouth”; now that’s got to sting!

Anger is one of the most powerful emotions we humans come across, and whilst it’s not always a productive way to live your life, it’s been one of the most potent sources of musical inspiration for as long as music has existed.

Du Blonde

Du Blonde_Alice Baxley

Who?
Du Blonde is the “reincarnation” of former baroque singer-songwriter Beth Jeans Houghton. Of the name change Beth said the following “This is a new sound, a new project. Du Blonde is a new incarnation and one step closer to assuming my ultimate form. Having freed myself from the rusty and bloody shackles of Beth Jeans Houghton – both musically and spiritually – I felt it only right to step forth under a new name and let the rituals commence.”

What?
A tough question on one of the most varied collections of songs we’ve heard all year. Du Blonde’s music goes from gospel-tinged near power ballad like Hunter, hard hitting Queens Of The Stone Age rock numbers like the single Black Flag and theatrical piano ballads like After The Show; add some early-noughties guitar based indie and a lot of lyrics about sex and relationships and you won’t be far off the Du Blonde sound.

Where?
Yet another great musician coming out of Newcastle. They’re putting something in the water up in the North-East we’re sure of it! Field Music, Nadine Shah, Let’s Buy Happiness, Martha, Milky Wimpshake, SLUG: is there a more lively scene in the country right now?

When?
Born in 1990, Beth released her debut album, alongside backing band The Hooves Of Destiny, back in 2012. That album, Yours Truly Cellophane Nose, was a slab of adventurous, wonky pop music, which could be loosely described as freak-folk. As Du Blonde she has signed a deal with Mute Records and will release the album Welcome Back To Milk on May 18th.

Why?
Ambitious, varied, emotive, Welcome Back To Milk is a bold debut album. When it all clicks into gear there’s some truly stunning moments. Black Flag is a thrilling raw rock song, Four In The Morning is a piano ballad Regina Spektor would be proud of and Hard To Please is a dancefloor-filling indie number with nods to The Long Blondes and The Arctic Monkeys, but also has a wonderfully swooping chorus with the lyric “shut the fuck up and let me bore you, I’m not sure that I adore you!”

The star throughout is the vocal performance, not so much because of it’s particular quality, but because of it’s incredibly versatility, like Amanda Palmer, Perfume Genius and Joanna Gruesome‘s Alanna McArdle before her, Du Blonde seems to go from shrieking rock monster to beautiful, poignant pop singer whilst barely pausing for breath. It’s never better demonstrated than on the excellent Young Entertainment, kicking off with an acapela introduction, before some psych-tinged guitars and gun-shot drums rock in before the very un-family friendly chorus kicks in, her voice becoming an oddly innocent coo as she repeats the line “what is it like? what is it like to fuck your mistress with her hands tied?”

Another highlight is tucked away at the end, an elder male narrator, with more than a hint of Alan Bennett about him, starts proceedings telling us to believe in something, be that a god, a friend or ourselves. Then over a gentle piano-led backing Du Blonde seems to age in front of us, she becomes like a wise, thoughtful, sage. Her vocal treated with a classically retro production, is equal parts Kate Bush and Vera Lynn, the tale she spins is of growing up and of finding the true you somewhere in the midst of life as we find it. “Isn’t it wild how we fight to define what we do day to day by the way those around us portray us” she notes, the whole thing is rather beautifully different to anything she gets close to elsewhere, but it works wonderfully.

Why Not?
The throw everything at the tape and see what sticks was always likely to be a bit up and down. If You’re Legal, which borrows lyrics from Knees Up Mother Brown wouldn’t be missed, while the feeling that Mind Is On My Mind is only included because it features Future Island‘s frontman Samuel Herring is confirmed by being the weakest song here; it’s just a bit of a ramshackle mess, whilst his cameo is mainly reminiscent of a cartoon villain, seemingly channelling his inner Gargamel. It’s just a case of having so many ideas they can’t quite all develop fully, and as such entirely forgiveable on a debut album.

Welcome Back To Milk is out May 18th on Mute Records. Du Blonde is on tour throughout the UK in June and plays End Of The Road Festival at the start of September.

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