Two years after their debut full length release Box Of Secrets, Brighton duo Laura-Mary Carter and Steven Ansell are back with Blood Red Shoes‘ album number two. Anyone familiar with their first one will certainly not be surprised by anything they find here, but will it sustain the interest of current fans, and is it likely to pick up any new ones along the way?
Well… on this evidence? Perhaps not. Whereas somehow in 2008 the glammed-up, rocked-out tales of urban angst and Boredom By The Sea felt fresh and engaging, here the repetition of many of those tropes begins to seem more than a little, well, repetitious.
A favoured device is that of taking a line of lyric – like “Don’t ask / This time / Don’t ask / The reason why” – and constructing the song around it, without taking it anywhere very far, or developing it further. This is clearly used with the intent of capturing and reflecting a certain urgency, rage, ire, and as such can prove effective. Over the course of a whole album though, a feeling of predictability increasingly builds up, which counterbalances and dissipates the rawness and impact of the delivery.
The most enjoyable moments are those that deviate from this pattern. The slower, atmospheric When We Wake has an eerie opening that recalls Pixies‘s Where Is Your Mind, and indeed Laura-Mary’s vocal does at times have something of the sweet-yet-tough quality of Kim Deal about it.
The same influence can also be heard (as, indeed, is acknowledged by the band in the album’s accompanying press information) in forthcoming single Light It Up. This same track, though, also reveals a slightly less impressive lineage, in places sounding quite a lot like The Subways – who were surely once a watered-down Blood Red Shoes. Elsewhere, dated echoes of the early noughties “NME-Rock-n-Roll-Riot” type bands like The Datsuns or The Hives can also be heard in the straightforward riffs and undemanding tunes.
Lyrically the band repeat the same concerns as they have previously aired. Songs have a pervasive sense of negativity, disillusionment, boredom, alienation. “Started on two feet / Ended on your knees” (Don’t Ask); “It’s old, and old, and old, and worn out” (Light It Up); “Your repetition’s killing us” (It Is Happening Again); “Who’s had enough?” (Keeping It Close) – on and on it goes, with similar examples available for nearly every track featured. It would be easy to look at the words and assume that this was a band on the brink of a split, were it not for the fact that their first album featured a very similar outlook and identikit themes.
Essentially, it is hard to see where the band might go from here. Admittedly a more appealing (fresh sounding, enthusiastic, driven) live prospect than they now appear on record, the lack of anything very much in the way of originality or development thus far in their recorded material does not bode too positively for their future.