wears the trousers magazine

blood red shoes: fire like this (2010)
March 3, 2010, 12:28 pm
Filed under: album, review | Tags: , ,

Blood Red Shoes
Fire Like This •••
V2 / Co-op

It’s all a bit too easy with Blood Red Shoes. They’re the tastiest, most palatable pill in all of rock, sliding down the throats of the record-buying public with the slightest of contractions. Anyone expecting a challenging and exciting progression from their 2007 debut Box Of Secrets may find themselves confused by the first half of Fire Like This; essentially, it’s just more of the same long guitar phrases, punchy drums and sweet overlapping vocals that build up to the chorus into boring shouty melodies. Take ‘Don’t Ask’ as a prime example. You can practically hear the teenagers singing along, but there is a sense of something lacking. It’s like Blood Red Shoes by numbers. There’s a middle drop-out section with a lovely thick guitar sound, but it’s just so predictable that it does nothing to accelerate the heart rate and fails to ignite to the usual levels of angst that we’ve come to expect from Stephen Ansell and Laura-Mary Carter’s disaffected tales of boredom, isolation and frustration.

Fire Like This doesn’t make it any easier to crowbar Blood Red Shoes away from those young alternative rock bands that come around every once in a while who are good and catchy and inoffensive and usually cite Nirvana, Pixies, Rage Against The Machine, and if they’re really daring, Sonic Youth as big influences. You know: Nine Black Alps, The Subways, Dinosaur Pile-Up etc.; we might like all of those bands, even love them in moments, but on album number two there should be no scope for underwhelming ambition. Luckily, they do eventually plumb to more rewarding depths and, perhaps surprisingly, it’s a slow song that provides the album’s first exhilarating moment. ‘Keeping It Close’ arrives as a mid-album highlight, benefiting from a slight change in melody tempo to distinguish it from the sameness of its predecessors.

The second half of the album is markedly better as the songs take on a new level of realism and truth. No longer are Ansell and Carter simply banging out chart-bound singalongs with often seemingly arbitrary lyrics; these later tracks seem reactionary. Things leap into brilliance immediately with ‘Heartsink’, with its Graham Coxon-esque riff. Instead of the superficial teenage teeth-gnashing of the earlier tracks, here Blood Red Shoes adopt a mature, grating and gloomy anger. Finally, we can start to relate. Other standouts include ‘One More Empty Chair’, whose dreamy start juxtaposes nicely with Ansell’s yelps, and could mark the beginnings of a battle between the sweeter and the macho side of the band, and ‘Colours Fade’, the album’s bold seven-minute epilogue.

Intentional or not, the sequencing of Fire Like This means it quite literally documents Ansell and Carter’s growth from crowd-pleasers to progressives. As an album, then, it’s a confusing collection of contradictions, but one that gives plenty of reasons to be optimistic for the next.

Maxie Gedge
UK release date: 01/03/10; www.myspace.com/bloodredshoes

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