The duo return to the spit-and-sawdust rock'n'roll of their first two albums
Blood Red Shoes have been together for 10 years now, and without wishing to sound cruel, sometimes you wonder what compels them to keep going. It’s never exactly been a barrel of laughs: the way drummer Steven Ansell tells it, he and Laura-Mary Carter spend so much time at each other’s throats, he quit the band on three separate occasions during the recording of their last album, 2012’s ‘In Time To Voices’. That’s fine if you’re in the Eagles and you’re rich enough to never have to encounter your bandmates outside of the 90 minutes you spend onstage each night, but four albums in, Blood Red Shoes are still serially underrated, rolling their Sisyphean blues-rock boulder from gig to gig and album to album while bands like Drenge and Royal Blood bask in the acclaim that’s always evaded them. “Our default setting as a band is to write from a negative perspective,” says Ansell, and you can hardly blame him.
If ‘In Time To Voices’ found them attempting to elevate themselves beyond not-quite cult status by adding a layer of polish and precision, their fourth album marks a return to the spit-and-sawdust rock’n’roll of their first two. It sounds like an acknowledgement of who they are and what they’re good at – not only is the record called ‘Blood Red Shoes’, but the opening track, a discordant instrumental thrash clocking in at under two minutes, goes by the name of ‘Welcome Home’. What Blood Red Shoes are best at, however, is playing live, and this album, like the three that preceded it, doesn’t quite capture the tooth-and-claw ferocity of that experience: the coiled, coital menace of ‘Grey Smoke’ and the pummelling psych-garage of ‘The Perfect Mess’ will always be better experienced in a dark, sticky-walled sweatbox with a few hundred strangers. Despite that (and a couple of unfortunate missteps, like the quiet-loud alt.drear of ‘Far Away’) ‘Blood Red Shoes’ is probably the duo’s most satisfying effort to date – frustratingly short of the “quiet triumph” they sing about on closing track ‘Tightwire’, but an admirable racket nonetheless.