On 1 December 2013, Brighton duo Blood Red Shoes hid 10 different QR codes in different cities across the world. Once found, these codes pieced together to unlock a new track – The Perfect Mess – exclusively available on the band’s website in an admirable piece of innovation.
It took their dedicated fanbase just eight hours to find them all, with the added prize of two tickets for life to all of their forthcoming shows being a significant incentive for the successful hunters. The single itself opens to a catchy, distorted guitar riff before rapid drumming leads into a pounding verse; the chorus then repeats the riff alongside distorted vocals from Laura-Mary Carter declaring “I can’t save you, there’s nothing waiting for you”.
Entirely produced and engineered by the band themselves, the new album now follows after a lengthy six months’ recording process in Berlin to become their fourth long player, the first since 2012’s return to form, In Time To Voices.
After the thunderous sub-two minute instrumental Welcome Home, the album starts proper with Everything All At Once, a rocky, fuzz heavy guitar riff setting the tone before Steven Ansell’s distorted vocals drive the verses forward. A key ingredient to Blood Red Shoes’ best work has been the shared vocal responsibilities, and the injection of Carter’s vocals during the chorus elevates an average track into something more, with that familiar contrast often carrying more weight than a single vocal performance.
A second album-preceding track – An Animal – continues the punky vibe, again heavily distorted vocals in the style of The Black Keys sit alongside another heavy fuzz-guitar riff and a more memorable chorus to provide an early highlight. Carter then takes the vocal lead for the more melodic Grey Smoke, the female vocals providing a better accompaniment to the heavy riffage that’s very much in the vein of Bath brothers The Family Rain for another decent effort, with Ansell’s vocals later adding a further dimension.
The slower pounding of Far Away benefits from more evenly shared vocal duties as the track alternates between softly sung passages to heavy pounding sections. Album closer Tightwire is another song that adopts this vocal approach, but ultimately the repeated lyrics of “hanging on a tightwire” become a little grating after repeated plays.
This repetitiveness within choruses also adorns Behind The Wall, its uninspiring “tell me, tell me, tell me who you are, I know, I know you’re behind the wall” failing to add much to a slower effort, whilst Don’t Get Caught suffers a similar fate, with driving, pounding drums and occasional sprawling guitars doing their best to boost the lacklustre chorus.
Occasionally, the drumming is an ingredient that adds volumes: the delightfully melancholic Stranger provides a moment in stark contrast to the rest of the album, its constant four note spiky keyboard ditty forming the backdrop for Carter’s greatest vocal moment with Ansell’s brilliantly exuberant drumming sealing the deal. The rather tedious, mockney chorus of Speech Coma I Can’t Get The Words Out is then transformed entirely by the presence of some stunningly thunderous, pummelling drums performed at rapid velocity.
With such innovative ideas being dreamt up by the duo for how they actually release their material, it would be nice to see them apply the same invention to their melodies. Too often, the same formula appears with uninspiring choruses being too frequent; whilst these short, sharp bursts of fuzzy punk sound great in small doses, this collection will probably find itself confined to the shelf before long, as its longevity may be questionable with little poppy catchiness present.