Bleached // Ride Your Heart
Recommended Track: Next Stop
Ride Your Heart is a sticky sweet cherry popsicle of a record that fairly begs to be adored. It’s all there: catchy hooks, appealing melodies, a bit of bluster to temper the sugar, and a non-stop chorus of “oohs” and “ahhs” underlying songs following familiar pop themes–song titles like “Waiting on the Telephone” and “Love Spells” should tell you everything you need to know about this record. Bleached have even got their own dead lover song à la The Shangri-Las in the chirpy “Dead Boy”. And yet, for all its charms (and it has many), Ride Your Heart is essentially hollow, lacking the cheeky bite and high drama of the 60s girl groups on whom the band models themselves.
Trafficking as it does in hoariest of pop cliches, Bleached’s debut LP feels entirely phoned-in at best and phony at worst. The band pay such unrelenting homage to their influences (Blondie, The Undertones, The Ramones, etc.) thatRide Your Heart at times veers dangerously into Fuzztones-style mimicry. There’s no sense that Bleached have any desire to innovate on a successful formula, which wouldn’t be so annoying if Jennifer and Jessica Clavin hadn’t already demonstrated their ability to push rock music into more colorful territory with Mika Miko. With their latest project, the sisters seem content to coast on fumes, taking us nowhere we haven’t been before.
The cover art evokes the vibe Bleached is going for: that of the free, wild, and careless California girl, maybe a little too drunk and a little bit trashy, but unapologetic all the same. “Next Stop”, the best track here, hits the mark dead on. It’s the type of grooving pop song you blast in your convertible while speeding down the PCH to the beach, the Ramones-esque beat encouraging you to stomp your foot on the accelerator for sheer joy. But the feeling fades quickly after being treated to an entire album’s worth of identical material that never ventures into deeper waters.
That the Clavins are very talented is not in question. It’s more that Ride Your Heart is all surface all the time, calculated to be a fun and comfortable listen. It was always going to be a hard sell. Bleached built their reputation on a couple of strong singles released over a few years (some of the tunes are recycled here) and they might consider sticking to singles in the future. What sounds exciting for two minutes becomes thin and derivative when stretched over the length of an LP. Bleached certainly deliver the hooks, some of which are so good they give you goosebumps, but they quickly grow monotonous as the songs endlessly circle in on themselves (the glossy garage throwback of “Outta My Mind” is a particularly egregious example.)
Another issue: even if the music itself was more memorable, the almost complete lyrical emphasis on men would still be off-putting. Bleached have dragged the 60s girl group aesthetic into the 21st century with all the priggish morality of pre-sexual revolution America still intact. The Clavins may act the part of independent women, (“tears in YOUR eyes” is one of the more pointed lyrics in “Next Stop”) but it’s disingenuous: their musical universe revolves entirely around the reactions (or non-reactions) of men. No matter what the topic at hand, every song resolves into some variation on the same old “baby please come back to me” sentiments that grown men penned for teenage girls to sing about boys 50 plus years ago.
Bleached vaguely stretch their limbs on “Dead in Your Head”, a new wavey song that promises to go somewhere interesting until the chorus drops and Jennifer’s crooning, “I never wanted to hurt the boy I loved the most” without seeming to mean any of it. Such mealy-mouthed simpering from nearly 30-year old women seems awfully wasteful, considering how many bands would kill to write a song as good as “Next Stop” or the twee-ish (in a good way) “Searching Through The Past”. Without a unique point of view to draw the listener into the Clavins’ world, the emotional impact of every song dissipates as quickly as cigarette smoke in a summer breeze.
So despite a few fine moments and at least one classic song, there’s just no getting past the feeling that Ride Your Heart is crassly opportunistic in the worst way, meaning that Bleached have deliberately chosen to make an unchallenging record unworthy of their talents. The alternative is even more troubling: Bleached have unintentionally made a record about the most shallow (and therefore most marketable) elements of both the female experience and the Californian experience. But I don’t think that’s true. I think Bleached have quite knowingly hitched their wagon to a musical trend that some might say they helped engineer with the intention of bringing the widest audience possible onboard with their vision of California cool. Alas, without substance to back up their swagger, it’s the band themselves who’ve been taken for ride.
I don’t think I can find another review more accurate than this.