Posts Tagged ‘Welcome Back To Milk’

“Welcome Back To Milk” is the studio album by Beth Jeans Houghton and the first for her under the project  Du Blonde, released in the United Kingdom on 18th May 2015 by Mute Records. The album was written, composed, and performed by Du Blonde and produced by Bad Seed and Grinderman member Jim Sclavunos.

Du Blonde is not a persona or a character, it’s then 25 year old Beth Jeans Houghton ripping it up and starting again. Welcome Back To Milk is the Newcastle-born and sometimes Californian based singer’s second album, but her debut as Du Blonde, and it’s a complete reinvention: new name, new sound, new band, new attitude. Where 2012’s debut Yours Truly Cellophane Nose threw everything at a song, Welcome Back To Milk strips everything back and is one massive release of pent up aggression, captured perfectly by Jim Sclavunos. Heavy riffs, loud drums, vocal snarls contrast beautifully with more poignant balladry and tenderness that fans of Houghton’s previous work will recognise. Future Islands frontman Samuel T Herring also provides guest vocals on My Mind Is On My Mind. Our first taste of Houghton’s latest project is a confident and brilliantly delivered collection of songs. What she does next really is anyone’s guess – perhaps she doesn’t even know herself. Ultimately, though, I guess this complete lack of predictability is a big part of what makes Beth Jeans Houghton such a great artist.

This would appear to be Beth Jeans Houghton’s vision, from start to finish. She’s credited with song writing and vocals (obviously) but also with playing many of the instruments too. No small undertaking then. What you get is intelligent and cutting songcraft. The words (and the way they’re presented) have been honed and re- honed to perfection. There’s a fine intellect at work here. For me (and these things are always personal taste), the simpler arrangements worked best, just piano and voice. There’s a real intimacy and baring of the soul in this album, and it’s done with total honesty and conviction. After Beth Jeans Houghton’s debut album Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose’s release in 2012, she and the band toured extensively, performed at high-profile musical events, including Glastonbury, The Great Escape, Latitude and Bestival.

In November 2012, midway through recording the follow-up in Los Angeles with The Hooves of Destiny, the crisis broke out.  “When I listened back to what we’d recorded, I didn’t see any of myself in it… None of it was angry, none of it was sad. I wasn’t being true to myself,” the singer said, speaking to The Observer. She broke up the band and ditched her name, opting for a different sound, described as “spiky, propulsive” and “exhilarating.” This drastic move had been preceded by a breakdown she had in the summer of 2012 in a Zurich hotel room, during a European tour. “I felt my head go. It was the scariest thing. It felt like my brain was melting,” Houghton remembered. After several months of dieting and meditating she completely recovered.

“This is a new sound, a new project. Du Blonde is a new incarnation and one step closer to assuming my ultimate form. Having freed myself from the rusty and bloody shackles of Beth Jeans Houghton – both musically and spiritually – I felt it only right to step forth under a new name and let the rituals commence,” Houghton stated, explaining the moniker conversion. Asked what has prevented her from playing louder on Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose, Du Blonde said: “I think a lot of it had to do with the way I learnt how to write and play guitar. I taught myself, and therefore had no concept of time signatures and keys, so often my songs would turn out pretty experimental because, well, they were experiments… Due to the complex or odd nature of the songs I was writing, putting distortion on things just didn’t work. To make the best of a raw, overdriven sound, I needed to keep it simple, which is only something I learned once I had a better grasp on chord progressions and rhythms.

There aren’t many musicians in the country as creative and as interesting as her at this point in time, and “Welcome Back To Milk” represents another triumph in her weird and wonderful saga.“ So BJH ditched the hooves, went blonde and hitched her wagon to a brand new edgier sound. Good for her, so it seems. Sold to the fish in the corner on the chorus alone, with it’s epic drum/guitar mash-up, she’s got one hell of a vocal range that wallops a whole range of emotions into orbit.

Would recommend her new album Lung Bread for Daddy as well.

So BJH ditched the hooves, went blonde and hitched her wagon to a brand new edgier sound. Good for her, so it seems. Sold to the fish in the corner on the chorus alone, with it’s epic drum/guitar mash-up, she’s got one hell of a vocal range that wallops a whole range of emotions into orbit. ‘Welcome Back To Milk’ is out now on Mute Records.

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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.

 

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Du Blonde has enlisted the help of Future Islands enigmatic frontman Samuel T. Herring for new single “Mind Is On My Mind”.

The track features on Du Blonde‘s first album as Du Blonde – previously, who went under the name of Beth Jeans Houghton – which is monikered Welcome Back To Milk. Swanning away from the garage-y tones of lead single “Black Flag”, Blonde x Herring spiral towards surf-noir as if composing the theme for a James Bond flick set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Speaking about writing the cut, Blonde said: “I wrote ‘Mind Is On My Mind’ on the back of a motorbike riding down the Pacific Coast Highway in LA and had to remember it all the way from Topanga to Malibu. I was interested at the time in writing songs with no repeating sections, but rather a succession of acts. A couple of months later, Sam and I took a trip out to the desert and came back to LA to make some music. I played him the track and he got in the booth and ad-libbed his lyrics over the instrumentation. He was done in like one or two takes. When I was back in London I’d become obsessed with these Middle Eastern and Greek guitar scales and I added the lead guitar in the outro as a contrast to Sam’s vocals.”

Welcome Back To Milk is released 18th May by Mute Records, check out these UK Dates

June

3 – BRIGHTON GREEN DOOR STORE
4 – LONDON 100 CLUB
5 – LEEDS BRUDENELL SOCIAL CLUB
6 – BRISTOL LOUISIANA
7 – NOTTINGHAM THE BODEGA
9 – MANCHESTER DEAF INSTITUTE
10 – GLASGOW BROADCAST
11 – NEWCASTLE THE CLUNY

July

24 – THIRSK, DEER SHED FESTIVAL