The latest album from Du Blonde, Welcome to Black Milk, offers listeners an imaginative mix of sweetness and grit. The British artist formerly known as Beth Jeans Houghton is kicking the folk-pop of Hooves of Destiny’s 2012 Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose to the curb in favour of a new rock sound.
Black Milk is full of menace and grime, which might have something to do with Bad Seed Jim Sclavunos producing the record with the opener ‘Black Flag’ giving listeners a taste of what’s to come. The record has plenty of decent rock tracks, such as ‘Raw Honey’, a Chilli Peppers-inspired number with killer guitars and a chilled, almost drawling vocal performance, which would wipe the smug smile from Lana Del Rey’s face.
Houghton’s lyrics go from unimaginative to heartbreaking to hilarious in the bat of an eyelid. The funniest of the bunch is on the rough and ready ‘Mr Hyde’, where Houghton treats us to lines like “Jekyll’s in the kitchen sucking off Hyde”. But it’s not just her lyrics that ooze sexuality or, rather, knock you over the head with it. The snarl of Houghton’s voice in ‘If You’re Legal’ is positively seductive, and the NSFW album cover, depicting Houghton in a fur jacket and not much else, will definitely draw in a few listeners.
One standout track is ‘Hard to Please’; it’s fast paced, danceable and has some killer riffs. Not to mention it has a decent beat, which tracks like ‘If You’re Legal’ and slower tracks like ‘Four in the Morning’ lack. Houghton’s vocal performance lacks power in tracks like ‘After the Show’ and ‘Chips to Go’, especially when instrumentation is stripped back to just a guitar accompaniment.
‘Mind is on My Mind’, the second single off Black Milk, is another great track. Bursting with energy, it’s a song that’s angry and ready to kick some arse. Du Blonde teams up with Samuel T. Herring of Future Islands, whose sweet melodies combine with pentatonic scales to create a slightly middle-eastern sound that makes this track stand out from the rest of the album.
This album seems a little mixed up, and perhaps that’s because Haughton is experimenting and challenging herself as a musician. Du Blonde is at its best when it’s angry, or sexy, or both.Upbeat, danceable rock tracks like ‘Hard to Please’, ‘Young Entertainment’ save this record from becoming self-indulgent rather than imaginative and shows off Haughton’s vocals at their best.
Welcome to Black Milk is out 22 May via Create/Control Mute.