Release Date: May 19, 2015
Record label: Mute
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Beth Jeans Houghton is back: restyled, renamed and on the basis of Welcome Back To Milk, her first album under new moniker Du Blonde, pretty damn pissed off, too. Well, that’s the initial impression. Once you become a little better acquainted with the album, however, a more nuanced picture emerges. Houghton’s previous incarnation, on 2012 album Yours Truly Cellophane Nose saw her slightly dismissively pigeonholed, in places, as a kind of wacky, folky, zany chick.
Du Blonde is the former Beth Jeans Houghton, treating herself to a topknot-to-fundament makeover in image, musical outlook and nomenclature. It’s a reinvention not entirely dissimilar to the trajectory described by Goldfrapp, from the grainy mood-mosaic of Felt Mountain to the glitterball lairiness of Black Cherry, and it comes with a comparable screed of pros and cons. You could argue that glammy, commode-mouthed contemplation of vigorous and/or deviant sex (expressly, the stomping sleaze of Young Entertainment) is a path already well-trodden in spiked heels, and the comparative dearth of the textual and textural idiosyncrasies that peppered 2012’s Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose feels like more of a step backwards than sideways.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Isn't it odd that the transformation, or to give it a more creative title, the reinvention, of Beth Jeans Houghton, has been met with such a commotion? Decades ago, ambitious artists were expected to change their music and their image with each release - one only has to look at the work of David Bowie and Kate Bush, to name but two. In case you aren't fully up to date on the story, what has happened is that the artist formerly known as Beth Jeans Houghton and the Hooves of Destiny has jettisoned the kooky folk-pop of that particular incarnation, and returned in dramatic fashion as Du Blonde.
It’s been pretty intriguing to observe the entirely singular trajectory of Beth Jeans Houghton’s musical career. As far back as 2009 she was refusing to comply with various attempts to shoehorn her into freak-folk micro-genres and onto ‘next big thing’ lists. Displaying absolutely no desire to be rushed, it wasn’t until 2012 that her debut LP Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose emerged under the guise of Beth Jeans Houghton and the Hooves of Destiny.
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.
In the summer of 2012, after releasing her debut LP Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose, singer-songwriter Beth Jeans Houghton suffered a nervous breakdown, scrapped an entire album, and devised a new plan of attack. She plotted a drastic reinvention and arranged sessions with producers who would nod along with glazed expressions before layering on Auto-Tune and ornamental synths in the studio. Exasperated, Houghton turned to nefarious Bad Seed Jim Sclavunos, impressed by his yen for psych bands like Lemon Pipers and Ultimate Spinach, and developed her classic-rock chops.
While making the follow-up to her debut album Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose, Beth Jeans Houghton experienced a creative block that led to scrapping an entire album's worth of songs, dissolving her band the Hooves of Destiny, and the creation of a new musical persona: Du Blonde. Her first album under that name, Welcome Back to Milk, proves that this is more of an identity opportunity than an identity crisis. While she possesses a silvery voice that would sound right at home on album after album of Yours Truly's ethereal folk-pop, her transformation from Beth Jeans Houghton's soap bubble iridescence to Du Blonde's biker jacket toughness is surprisingly effective.
When St. Vincent introduced her Einstein hair and excellent self-titled album last year, it was clear she had been reincarnated into a futuristic, alien being. Better still, it suited her because she decided it did. Reinvention stems from a desire to take on your true form at a given moment. It’s ….
Beth Jeans Houghton’s outlandish sensibilities often lingered longer than the melodies on her psychefolk debut Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose. It’s been three years, one scrapped album and a life overhaul since its release, however, and the Newcastle singer has dumped her band, the Hooves of Destiny, and the avant-garde body paint, and is resurrected as the merkin-wearing Du Blonde – a more malevolent creature than her ethereal former self. The music is inventive and odd: Hunter is an unhinged X Factor Christmas single; grimy metal opera Chips to Go is a runaway bride drowning her sorrows in a Camden drinking hole.