Release Date: Apr 2, 2013
Record label: Dead Oceans Records
For their highly anticipated debut album, sisters Jennifer and Jessica Clavin, better known as the indie pop-punk duo Bleached, have successfully harnessed the powers of the warm Los Angeles sun and the universal topic of heartache and heartbreak. Following in the footsteps of another surf-rock-influenced duo from Southern California (one with a large affinity for cats), Bleached’s Ride Your Heart blends just the right amount of catchy melodies and guitar fuzz with the rollercoaster ride known as love. .
Since the dawn of the teenager, California girls have had a pretty decent time of it. From The Beach Boys’ worshipping of such confident beach-dwelling creatures to the championing of Haim and Best Coast, it’s as if there’s never been a bad time to be a lady from the Golden State. Yet the Los Angeles-dwelling sister act that make up Bleached show us that behind the glossy locks and perfect teeth lurks a sadness that no amount of margarita mix and burger grease can wash away.Despite the warm riffs and Sun-In licks, ‘Ride Your Heart’ is a record that deals with romantic rejection and the complex aftermath of love gone wrong.
Ride Your Heart is the debut album from Los Angeles-based surf rockers Bleached, formed by Californian twins Jessica and Jennifer Clavin after the breakup of their previous band Mika Miko. The sisters’ new project undoubtedly continues in the same endearingly ramshackle, ‘anyone can do this’ spirit of the earlier group, a shouty riot-grrl punk outfit – but there, for the most part, the similiarities end. Gone is the unintelligible shouting, tunelessly spiky guitar riffs and general sense of everything being recorded on an ancient four-track in someone’s garden shed which defined Mika Miko’s sound: Bleached lean far more towards the slicker, poppier end of the punk spectrum.
Maybe you know that Jennifer and Jessica Clavin used to be in punk band Mika Miko. Maybe you’ve noticed the faded album cover here or the hazy promo shots of the band. Maybe you’ve made note of that name, Bleached, and all the sun exposure and ravages of time it implies. Maybe you hear “Looking For a Fight”, the first song on Ride Your Heart (itself a seemingly quaint album title), and think you know all you need to know about this band.
By the time Mika Miko released their final album, We Be Xuxa, Jennifer and Jessica Clavin were already leaning toward the cleaner, more melodic punk-pop that they explore more fully on Ride Your Heart, their debut album as Bleached. Their early singles, like the excellent "Searching Through the Past" -- which appears here and remains a highlight -- were equal parts sassy attitude and vulnerable confessions, all wrapped up in inescapable hooks and melodies. However, that immediacy is missing a little too often on these songs, and the Clavin sisters sometimes sound less sure of themselves than they did before.
For several years, Jessica and Jennifer Clavin took the Los Angeles punk scene by storm with their thrash-pop act Mika Miko, a tenacious all-female ensemble that paved the way for like-minded rising stars such as Abe Vigoda and No Age. The siblings have reunited as the duo Bleached, and their sound has been scaled back from the riotous phonic salvos of the their previous incarnation, though that doesn’t make the material any less dynamic. With a sonic approach that can most straightforwardly be described as Black Flag meets Best Coast, Bleached implements a cleaner production aesthetic while leaning more heavily toward popular influences, and the result is an effort that, while not quite as immediately memorable as Mika Miko’s early works, carves out a fresh niche for the sisters.
"It's a song about being in love but also being independent," Jennifer Clavin said of "Next Stop", the rollicking single from L.A. garage rockers Bleached's debut LP Ride Your Heart. Like Bleached's sound, the video pays homage to the retro cool of the Shangri-Las (motorcycles, leather jackets, ponytails), but it also mines the tension of that thematic split-screen Clavin mentions.
If you closely examine a map of Los Angeles, you can see that the extensive highway system crisscrosses the city like faint lines on a palm. The 110’s downward curve lies adjacent to the line of fate. Fitting, since so many chase ambition and golden dreams straight to the dead center of Hollywood. The line of life rests on the azure Route 1 (better known as the Pacific Coast Highway) — a necessary border to the sun-bleached California spirit.
Bleached recently curated a mixtape for BEATmagazine with tracks from Blondie, The Replacements, Siouxsie and The Banshees, Velvet Underground, and even the Kinks and Rolling Stones. Clearly, their influences weigh heavily upon their sound with Dead Boy a seeming Blondie outtake, whilst their sun-soaked surf rhythms draw them closer to modern contemporaries like Best Coast. As a statement of their intention, that mixtape seems like an honourable homage to their heroes, but in translation, it seems they need to search more thoroughly for their own definable aesthetic.
Before sisters Jessica and Jennifer Calvin formed Bleached, and before they joined now defunct post-punk band Mika Miko, they were teenagers living in the suburbs of L.A., sneaking into Hollywood punk shows, hanging out at DIY all-ages venue the Smell and teaching themselves how to play guitar in the family's garage. This upbringing influenced Bleached's fantastic early singles, but on their debut album, all the rawness, energy and grit is gone. Instead, the LP is chock-a-block with polished pop songs about boys - loving boys, waiting for boys to call, daydreaming about boys.
Ah, the pop song – that shining, three-minute nugget of melodious ohrwurm. A song with a hook the size of Holland and a thrilling (and frequently annoying) ability to gnaw away at the subconscious for better or for worse. Often sneered at as being cheap and tacky - art parodying as lowest denominator unit-shifters – the notion of the 'perfect' pop song has an empiric purity and is an ultimately doomed ambition, even if The Beach Boys and ABBA got tantalisingly close.
I’ll level, there are times when I feel like I’m getting bored with new “indie” music. Well, yes, okay, I’ve jumped around to Japandroids. Done the dishes to DIIV, each soapy sud plunged rhythmically against wet ceramic with palpable glee. Nodded along thoughtfully to Dirty Projectors, immersing myself in the rhythmic complexity as one would beneath a duvet cover full of sand: it’s warm! It’s rough! It’s comforting! It’s irritating! But however makeshift or weird, it’s still a fucking duvet at the end of the day.
Bleached is the new project of sisters Jessica and Jennifer Clavin, both former members of the now defunct LA garage punk group Mika Miko. Compared with their previous band, the Clavins seem to have taken a step back in time. Bleached is full of Ramones and Ronettes influences that make it impossible not to mention similarities in their sound to the Vivian Girls.