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. If this were the late ’70s, they’d be nestling comfortably in with the likes of Buzzcocks and The Undertones rather than the shouty, politicised anger of Sex Pistols and Stiff Little Fingers – all teenage kicks and falling in love with someone you shouldn’t have, as opposed to suspect devices and anarchy in the USA.
Bleached have been described in various quarters as ‘The Ramones meets The Ronettes’, and there is some truth to this description – they do utilize the back-to-basics, three-chords-are-enough approach of The Ramones and combine it with the sweet-voiced delivery and winsome, boy-centric lyrics of ’60s girl groups (“I saw him standing there and I knew I had to make him mine” in final track When I Was Yours comes off as a bolshy, 21st century bubblegum rock update of Be My Baby’s “The night we met I knew I needed you so”). It’s perhaps a little reductive, though: Ride Your Heart also bears the fingerprints of jangly C86 indie pop, buzzing ’60s surf music, L7’s grungy ’90s alt-rock and the melodic punk harmonies of early Green Day.
Ride Your Heart starts as it means to go on, with album opener Looking For A Fight’s blistering four-chord power punk, all twanging surf guitar and crisp, fast-paced drums. It’s perhaps telling that the very first line of the album is “I’ll walk you home at night, but you better stay clear ‘cos I’m looking for a fight” – Bleached are sweet enough to escort you home, but they’ve got a tough edge that means you mess with them at your peril. At no point from thence onwards does the album slow down or lose interest, highlights including Dead In Your Head, with its pummelling bassline and gorgeous vocal and guitar harmonies, the non-stop garage rock attack of Waiting By The Telephone, and the banjo-inflected title track – the closest Ride Your Heart gets to a breather.
There are quite a few bands in a similar sort of vein to Bleached knocking about at the moment, from fellow Los Angelenos Dum Dum Girls to New Yorkers Vivian Girls to Manchester’s own PINS: all-female bands playing melodic garage punk with pleasingly grungy power chord sequences, buzzy guitar hooks and naively simple lyrics sung in the echoing, brattily sweet tones of a young Kim Wilde or Joan Jett. What sets Bleached apart is their palpable energy, consistent catchiness, and the sheer effortlessness of their sound, as though each of the 12 songs on Ride Your Heart were dashed off in a cool garage on a tarmac-meltingly hot summer’s day, in 10-minute breaks snatched between dive-bombing a neighbour’s swimming pool and chugging back chilled cans of Coors Light.
If this album doesn’t make teenage girls everywhere want to steal their older brother’s guitar, learn a few power chords and start a band with a couple of friends in their parents’ front room, there’s clearly something very wrong with the youth of today.