Reinvention is the 2015 thing to do; we’ve got Mumford & Sons kitting out at World Of Leather and pawning their banjos, The Vaccines jacking up on candy pop at Dave Fridmann’s studio and Laura Marling channelling Dire Straits. None of them, however, have attempted quite such a complete and total rebirth as Beth Jeans Houghton, whose reincarnation as Du Blonde spins the Newcastle-born, LA-based singer-songwriter’s look, sound and attitude on its head.
The 25-year-old’s debut album, 2012’s ‘Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose’, cast her as a pop star spawned from the imagination of Phoebe from Friends, an unabashed uber-kook with a band named The Hooves Of Destiny and a penchant for mind-bending pixie pop. To see Beth in her new incarnation, you’d assume Du Blonde killed and ate the old Houghton in a forest, and took the face to wear as a mask. That’s her on the cover under snot green Cali-punk lettering, rocking a bleach-blonde merkin and looking like the hell spawn of Dave Lee Roth. Even the song titles come straight from the cock-rock handbook: ‘Raw Honey’, ‘After The Show’, ‘If You’re Legal’, ‘Mr Hyde’.
The music reflects this new image, bringing in snarling, Runaways-style vocals, raging guitars and thunderous drums, a stall set out neatly by the riotous, Arctic Monkeys-like opening track ‘Black Flag’ and ‘Chips To Go’, which follows it with funk-rock flavour and screaming chorus line: “If love is just a word for us then why did I goddamn let it hold me down?”
Clearly, Houghton’s found fertile ground in connecting with her inner rage monster, but there’s a different side to the album too: anthemic glam rock reminiscent of Bowie’s work with guitarist Mick Ronson. It’s there in spectral power ballad ‘Hunter’ and ‘Five Years’-like ‘After The Show’ and, towards the end of the album, in ‘Mind Is On My Mind’, which Future Islands’ Samuel T Herring guests on, his vocal booming in like a communiqué from deep space. There’s a clear kinship: Future Islands have managed to sneak something out-there into the mainstream; thanks to this strong set, Du Blonde should do the same.