The Dalston Victoria, London, February 27
“Don’t tell me I’m crazy,” slurs Jessie Clavin to a busy back room in a pub, lips stained red from the wine she’s been swigging straight from the bottle between songs. “But I’ve been searching through the past.” Yeah, no kidding. With nods to the trashy three-chord cacophonies of the Ramones, the lo-fi fuck-you of the Germs and the bolshy riot grrrl-isms of Bikini Kill, an evening with Los Angeles newcomers Bleached is a lot like a violent visit from the ghost of punk past. It’s more nostalgic than a family photo album, noisier than a Cali basement rave and, tonight, more intoxicating than the cheap Shiraz Clavin is slugging.
Fronted by the 25-year-old and her guitarist sister Jennifer, both previously part of Kill Rock Stars racket-makers Mika Miko, the quartet are in town as a teaser for their upcoming debut album, which they promise is “more pop than punk”. There’s not much evidence of that tonight beyond brief echoes of Blondie in the infectious ‘When I Was Yours’ and the Ronettes-style shrieked vocal harmonies that litter their songs. Jangling frantically in and out of surf solos and clattering drums, recent single ‘Think Of You’ is Pixies’ ‘Where Is My Mind?’ on a boozy palm-tree vacation. ‘Next Stop’ fizzes with the sort of charisma that suggests Bleached’s actual next stop may be the niche success enjoyed by fellow garage revivalists Wavves and Best Coast recently. They’re not the finished article yet, and you could argue that they’re too in thrall to their class of ’77 punk idols, but you get the feeling their wild ride might be about to get wilder.
Tonight’s pop quota is filled by spindly support act Sean Nicholas Savage, whose stock-in-trade is ’90s R&B hooks sung over Casio keys and lo-fi bossa nova beats. Once labelmates with Grimes on Canadian imprint Arbutus, he shares her eclectic style and breathy, off-key vocals. On tracks like ‘Days Go By’ he sounds like cult icon Daniel Johnston, drunk at a wedding, doing Usher covers. With his leery whispers to the crowd – “You all look a million dollars, all of you” – and axe-murderer demeanour, Savage treads the fine line between sexual and sinister. In fact he doesn’t just tread it, he moonwalks down it in a skin-tight shirt and Freddie Mercury moustache, dazzling every step of the way.