Blood Red Shoes is:
Laura-Mary Carter – vocals, guitar
Steven Ansell – vocals, drums
Blood Red Shoes – Blood Red Shoes
1. Welcome Home
2. Everything All At Once
3. An Animal
4. Grey Smoke
5. Far Away
6. The Perfect Mess
7. Behind a Wall
9. Speech Coma
10. Don't Get Caught
11. Cigarettes in the Dark
Running time: 37:36
It's always been a bit of a pet peeve of mine when a band self-titles a record that isn't their debut – it just seems lazy. Just an example, Paramore did it last year and we got some gush about how it was self-titled because it felt like the band were finally making the music they wanted to make or some other rubbish. Blood Red Shoes is Blood Red Shoes' fourth album but on this occasion I will let the self-titling slide. See, for this record the band has ditched long-time producer Mike Crossey. For those not in the know, a list of artists Crossey has worked with reads as a who's who of the biggest and best 21st century indie and rock artists, and ditching him was a big decision. Just to name a few, Crossey has produced and mixed work the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Jake Bugg, Two Door Cinema Club, The Black Keys, Foals, The 1975, Keane, Razorlight and the Courteeners. That's a lot of hits right there.
So having holed themselves up in a small rented studio in Berlin for six months, Carter and Ansell set to work on making the record that they wanted to make, without any outside influences. It's a record that they have described as their “rawest, heaviest, sexiest and most confident.” Rawest and heaviest, I can get on bored with. Sexiest? That depends what time of night it is, and if it's first thing in the morning, this isn't the album you want to wake up next to. I mean, it's pretty enough, but emotionally it's a bit of a wreck, and it'll probably be calling your non-stop because you showed it a little bit of affection. See, Blood Red Shoes is yet another middling album from a middle of the road band. There's a reason why they've never really progressed up the festival line-ups despite this being their fourth album. Sure, there's a couple of really good tracks here and two or three that have the potential to get some airplay, but for every indie-riffic anthem, there's two examples of pure filler, as has always been the case with this band.
Blood Red Shoes have quite a recognisable sound. Carter and Ansell share vocals, so you usually have this really good male/female contrast in the vocals, and there's no bass either, which makes the guitar work of guitar all the more importantly. Typically, it's big, crunching riffs that chugg along throughout the album, but when necessary the song-writing allows for more understated, backseat guitar work. The album peaks when the guitar is front and center though, such as the deviant lead single “An Animal.” The riffs are fantastic and Ansell's vocal commands the verses like a predator before Carter adds a second vocal to the chorus. It's a tent-shaker, for sure and backs up the claim of this being a decadent album. Typically the record benefits when both the vocals are in play, as on the thumping “Far Away,” but this isn't always the case. It's just an interesting dynamic that sets the band apart. “Grey Smoke” is another track that features snaring guitars, and for the first time since their debut, Blood Red Shoes sound like a band that has something to say.
These are just the few highlights, however, and the album tends to tail off before it ever reaches the promise of the earlier tracks. Promotional track “The Perfect Mess” gets it about half right, both musically and in its title. “Behind a Wall” and “Stranger” are both middling tracks that lack the cutting edge of what came before, and “Speech Coma” is as pedestrian as it gets, threatening to put the listener into an actual coma. Not good. To it's credit the record does rebound towards the end with the venomous “Cigarettes in the Dark,” that starts with an eerie vocal from Carter and no guitars, before some pulsating drums and menacing guitar licks combine to form an onslaught of sound that builds to an ominous bridge. There's little pay off though, and the record ends with a whimper with “Tightwire.” As per usual, there's as much bad as good from Blood Red Shoes, and it appears their opening act status at festivals will stay in tact, but just barely.
Blood Red Shoes - “The Perfect Mess”
The 411: Often ditching a producer and self-producing an album can have drastic results, whether they be disastrous or not for the artist. In this instance, Blood Red Shoes have ditched an acclaimed and successful producer in favour of going on their own and the effects have been... almost non-existent. This is exactly the record you would expect Blood Red Shoes to release. OK, it's slightly heavier in places but not by any significant margin, and one or two tracks feature some pretty slick grooves, but there's very little in this self-titled record that sets it apart from the band's back catalogue. It will gain minimal airplay on the big radio stations, but no one's going to be saying it's a particularly bad album, because it's not. It's a perfectly acceptable piece of indie rock music but when there are so many bands currently pushing the envelope, you have to do better than this. The only thing consistent about Blood Red Shoes is their inconsistency and as such, self-titled this record is rather appropriate.