Jennifer and Jessica Clavin of Bleached have released an energetic and enjoyable debut. Ride Your Heart is a pop-punk record that will draw comparisons with other all-girl or female-fronted bands like Dum Dum Girls and the Vivian Girls. The Clavin sisters have used their experience fronting punk bands and cutting seven-inch singles to shape and craft a record full of love and heartache and everything that comes in between.
Before they were Bleached, the Clavins were part of Mika Miko, a punk group full of lust and energy (think Bikini Kill). After disbanding, the sisters went their separate ways until deciding that it was important to make the kind of music they wanted to make—together. Three seven-inch singles of punk-infused three-minute songs followed. And these singles already showed the Clavins moving beyond what they were as Mika Miko: loud but not as loud; rough but not as rough. They were more refined, more attention paid to detail. These singles gave way to Ride Your Heart which continues that musical progression.
The guitars on Ride Your Heart are jangly and clear; Jennifer Clavin’s vocals are more restrained and delicately harmonized with her sister’s. A big difference between Ride Your Heart and the Bleached singles is the production value. Ride Your Heart may be lo-fi, the instruments may be few, but they are smartly layered—the separation of sounds is easy to pick up—adding texture. The emphasis is on the guitars, which are still forward sonically, with the vocals in the background, and the harmonies behind that.
If Mika Miko drew heavily from Black Flag and the Misfits, Ride Your Heart gathers influence from crates of vinyl full of The Ramones, Blondie, Fleetwood Mac, and ‘60s era girl pop. Jennifer Clavin is more Debbie Harry than she is Stevie Nicks or Christine McVie—that’s a good thing. Not as snarly or angry as Harry, you can still hear bits of venom and anger in songs like: “Waiting By The Telephone”— a song that could be considered a retake on Blondie’s cover of the Nerves “Hanging on the Telephone.” Both songs are about waiting and wanting. But where Harry wants to give in and give up whatever she needs to in order to get her man, Clavin insists that her man is not getting away.
“Searching Through the Past” brings up Fleetwood Mac’s “I Don’t Want to Know” but with a bite. If “I Don’t Want to Know” is about denial, then “Searching” is about exploration: an unwillingness to accept that the one who got away actually got away. While they’re not exactly subverting the traditional pop love song, the Clavins won’t play the part of doting and long-suffering girlfriends. They refuse to be the woman who waits and wonders why love won’t come her way; the persona in “Searching” is out to get what she wants.
The two songs that best represent the themes of Ride Your Heart are “Looking for a Fight,” and “Dreaming Without You.” “Looking for a Fight” is two minutes of “come here/stay away: I want to kick your ass.” A chugging rhythm section, those jangly guitars, and a warning that the woman is in charge of this relationship: “You better stay clear/ ‘cause I’m looking for a fight.”
“Dreaming Without You” is a dreamy kiss-off song in which Clavin states that it’s no use trying to reconcile because she’s already moved on: “When you see me on the street/ don’t try and stop me/ ‘cause I’m already dreaming without you.”
The songs on this record seem to come from a raw place. Matters of the heart. Love and life. The fact that Clavin’s voice isn’t perfect, or that the harmonies are fragile, only add to the pleasure. Perfection is annoying. Bleached isn’t after that; rather they’re after realism: life and emotion are messy, loud, and sometimes off-key.
One gets the sense that the band will continue growing. For now, however, Ride Your Heart fits comfortably into contemporary music, carving out its space as an enjoyable pop record that will likely last over time.