February 28, 2010
Album review: Blood Red Shoes - 'Fire Like This' (V2/Co-operative)
Rumours of the duo going 'soft' were just that - they're as thrillingly loud as always
8 / 10
It’s as superfluous as suggesting that The Darkness’ ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’ is probably as good as any song you could drop a dart into on the back of an AC/DC greatest hits collection. But, although, yes, they wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the influence of ’90s US scuzz-rockers, from Fugazi to Nirvana to Sonic Youth to Pixies, the fact remains that the peaks of Blood Red Shoes’ 2008 debut album ‘Box Of Secrets’, given a quick spin in Doc Brown’s DeLorean and a transatlantic flight, could snugly park themselves into the tracklisting
of any given best-of-the-era compilation playlisted by any given bedroom Cobain-trailer.
Unashamed exponents of the hairier side of noughties rock, Steven Ansell and Laura-Mary Carter did it vastly better than most – Laura-Mary’s air-gasp vocals and brutally catchy riffs airlifting them storeys above supposed peers such as Nine Black Alps. However, releasing it too late after one-off singles such as ‘Stitch Me Back’ first gathered froth and surfing an entirely different sea to the plethora of more ‘angular’ bands, the possibility of mainstream recognition was always low. And so they remained a beloved but decidedly cult addition to UK
Early whispers of ‘Fire Like This’’ direction got nerves twitching with trepidation over a possible ‘gone pop’ switch, complete, it was rumoured, with strings. It didn’t last, thankfully – the album is just as much a joyously wall-felling barrage of riffola as ‘Box Of Secrets’. And while there’s cello searing underneath near album-end ‘Follow The Lines’ and closer ‘One More Empty Chair’, considering its neighbouring songs’ gleeful guitar destruction, you get the impression the instrument used to record it is in six pieces down the bottom of a Brighton skip.
As before, Blood Red Shoes are most fun when the velocity is set to skin-rippingly fast. Hence opener ‘Don’t Ask’ and ‘Heartsink’ – a screwy British cousin to Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ ‘Date With The Night’ – imprint most hard. On the latter, Steve leathers his cymbals with delirious angle-thrusts and improbable control, again demonstrating why he’s one of the most underrated young drummers in the country. ‘Colours Fade’ adds another dimension, the stretched closer showing they can do deftly elongated almost as well as drum-crushingly manic.
Overall the album is a reassertion that when it comes to hard-pumping guitar’n’drums duos it’s unjust that Steve and Laura-Mary are billed below the likes of The Kills on the big festival bill Sellotaped to God’s fridge. But to bemoan their fate would be like bemoaning a dollop of seagull deposit decorating your new suit as you walk out of the tailors – sometimes life just isn’t fair. For now we’ll have to be content with Blood Red Shoes quietly becoming one of the most thrillingly loud bands we’ve got – and the promising hope that there’ll be plenty more fire exactly like this from them for years to come.
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