Shit. What was that? I’ve just finished listening to the extraordinary debut album from Du Blonde and I’m still trying to get my head around what I’ve just heard. I’m not sure I can. As a reviewer, making musical comparisons is an unavoidable shorthand – albeit too often a lazy one – but in truth Welcome Back To Milk sounds like nothing else. It certainly doesn’t exhibit too many similarities to Beth Jeans Houghton, the artist she was in a past life. Having thrown off “the rusty and bloody shackles” (her on words) of this previous existence, she retired to create a persona that was more in keeping with her desire to make music that was “spiky and exhilarating”.
She’s certainly done that. Welcome Back To Milk roars out of the blocks in the cacophony of garage rock noise of ‘Black Flag’, quickly followed by more of the same with ‘Chips To Go’. As thrilling an opening salvo as it is, the prospect of another similarly brutal ten tracks is less than appealing. It’s lucky, then, that the record chooses that moment to take the first of a number of left turns. ‘Raw Honey’ has a subtle groove built around a delicate piano riff, while ‘After The Show’ has hints of a dramatic ’50s girl group pop – complete with harmonious backing vocals.
There are still some pretty hardcore moments on offer, both musically and lyrically (sexual imagery abounds, most uncomfortably on ‘If You’re Legal’) but Houghton always manages to temper the brutality with melody and musical inflection. Her voice is capable of bridging the gap too, equally at home on the psycho-punk of ‘Hard To Please’ at is on the startling piano ballad ‘Four In The Morning’. In between she exhibits all the range of dark emotion that she felt was being stifled before.
Never letting up for a moment, Welcome Back To Milk keeps the quality until the very end. ‘Mind Is On My Mind’ drops in a guest vocal from Future Islands’ Samuel T Herring to complement yet another shift in style, followed by the dreamy ‘Isn’t It Wild’. With its message of having faith in whatever gets your through the night, it’s an inspiring end to a record born from a desire to change what was wrong. There can be no better message right now.