Having recently celebrated the last birthday of her twenties, Beth Jeans Houghton, aka Du Blonde, should be ready to celebrate the release of her second album 'Lung Bread For Daddy'. Under the Du Blonde moniker and at her new home on Moshi-Moshi Records, multi-talented Beth has written, performed and produced the long awaited follow-up to her debut album 'Welcome Back To Milk'.
'Lung Bread For Daddy', a phrase appropriated from a friend and referring to a request for a cigarette, is a multi-faceted journey through the life of Du Blonde. It deals with unrequited love, longing, sadness and despair. There is disappointment and disillusionment but there is also hope and humour, a brilliant turn of phrase, a very keen sense of situational observation and above all some very well written songs.
The twelve tracks that make up Du Blonde's latest album veer between scuzzy Ginderman like guitars on 'Baby Talk' to beautifully tender lullabies on 'RBY' and 'On The Radio'. Drawing everything together and making sense of it all is the beguiling vocal of Houghton. As an instrument, it is at times sublime. For me, even now after years of listening, her voice doesn't sound like how she looks. Beth's vocal is mostly calming, tranquil even; it's soft and angelic but with an uneasy undercurrent that's never far from the surface (she looks, no offense intended Beth, like she might be trouble but I know she's not).
Ahead of the new album, Du Blonde has already treated us to three of the tracks. 'Holiday Resort' plays out like an early era Billy Bragg track with a fuzzy revolving guitar riff set against Beth's vocal. The undulation of the guitar score frames the reserved vocal as Houghton questions the state of modern relationships and her own place among them. Lyrically, it is just fantastic, littering the scene with a wider picture "romance is a crop that modern culture cannot yield", before imparting her own, warts and all, woes in a tale of tragic circumstance: "Hold my face up to the rain, I'll never love you like that again, but I don't mind pretending if I get to hear your voice again." 'Buddy' is similarly set but with a percussive backdrop and an unexpected break-down half way through where Houghton once again wears her heart firmly on her sleeve as she takes us through her dispirited moments: "So I live in my room, a small box, an old tomb. And I wait for your call, or your feet at my door." The last of the pre-release tracks, 'Angel', is possibly the most upbeat and has arguably the catchiest chorus. The livelier delivery is pitched perfectly to capture the essence and intent of the song.
'Lung Bread For Daddy' opens with a trio of new tracks headed up by 'Coffee Machine'. The song starts in the best place, with BJH's voice set against a gentle guitar and understated percussion. The soothing vocal and mellow nature of the track gives way a more aggressive and impassioned delivery in the latter half as the guitar breaks into a noisy squall. The succinct and more manic 'Take Out Chicken' follows before the most menacing of this album's tracks, 'Peach Meat' (what did we do before the Urban Dictionary?).
Where Du Blonde really excels herself, however, is not on the most obvious of tracks, not on the attitudinal, confrontational or sassy tracks, it is where she is probably at her most vulnerable and exposed. Having dealt with anxiety, depression, various mental health issues as well as insomnia for many years, it is no surprise that these facets of Du Blonde's personality manifest themselves in her songs. I'm not about to deliver some unqualified psycho-analysis of Beth's work, but I'm pretty sure that the freedom she enjoys in expressing herself so honestly and eloquently only helps serve as a cathartic release for her sometimes debilitating symptoms. The last third of the album are where this is most noticeable and where she is completely and inextricably woven into the fabric of the work.
The final four tracks on 'Lung Bread For Daddy' help make the album more than the sum of its parts as they lay Beth bare. Here, as elsewhere, there's a cutting and wry sense of humour but also a real sense of sadness and despondency in places as well as a rawness that you can't help but empathise with. The slow and soft 'RBY' is deftly arranged. Beth employs a simplistic approach, including an upfront guitar riff, that helps emphasise the captivating song where as 'Acetone' draws on drums, piano and triangle to help accentuate the track. Both impart tales of dysfunctional relationships gone south or love gone wrong but it is the final track that hits the hardest. The evocative, melancholic beauty of 'On The Radio' is spectacularly sad and quite, quite brilliant ("I don't seem to suit you but you still want to try me on and see"). The gentle guitar that scores the song fits so effectively. If you're not moved by this song you are devoid of emotion.
'Lung Bread For Daddy' is a stunning and stirring return from Du Blonde. My only small gripe is the running order, but I guess you could say that the best was saved for last. This is a Du Blonde moment that is by no means scatterbrained. It's an emotional rollercoaster delivered through some great songs with one of The contemporary voices of our time at the helm.
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