It’s been a long time since a band has been able to embody that quintessential California punk sound. Though many believed that Best Coast was the answer, Bleached’s latest full-length album, Ride Your Heart, is proof that the melodic goodness of 70s-era punk is still very much alive and well. Blending bitter riffs with emotional lyrics, it’s clear that sisters Jennifer and Jessica Clavin aren’t new to the music scene. With the popular L.A.-based band Mika Miko under their belts, Bleached seems to be a logical—and welcome—progression in the careers of these San Fernando Valley-born siblings.
As Bret Easton Ellis would tell you, growing up in the SFV can inoculate you with quite a sense of rage. Inevitably, the environment prompts the need for some sort of creative outlet to channel that sense of repression. And what better way than through bluesy garage punk? For Jennifer and Jessie, that Valley Girl existence led them past the hilly divide to Hollywood and, eventually, Downtown LA where Mika Miko became a fixture at The Smell. After releasing the single for “Think of You,” buzz began to generate for Bleached. Ride Your Heart will invariably build upon that buzz and, hopefully, make this sister duo even more well-known.
“Looking for a Fight” is the upbeat opener that transports us to that unmistakable Pacific coastline. Cautioning, “I brought you home tonight, but you best stay clear/’Cause you know I’m not right,” the song establishes the tough girl/Runaways-esque vibe that the Clavin sisters exude on every song. The first single, “Next Stop,” begins with a similarly raucous guitar riff and a more East Coast depiction, with lyrics like, “Next stop, waiting for the train/Next stop, smoking in the rain.” Detailing the concept of Shakespeare’s “parting is such sweet sorrow,” the story that unfolds is one of increasing distance between a couple—both literal and figurative.
Quite possibly the closest to a Best Coast song, “Outta My Mind” is an urge for a boy to get out of your head when you just can’t seem to stop thinking about him (even though he’s probably trolling at the local dive bar). “I know it’s only a game/’Cause you keep walkin’ away…/My dreams keep givin’ me hope and I don’t think I can let go” indicates a certain resignation to obsession. But really, what else is there to do in L.A. if you’re not obsessing or smoking weed?
With an intro that could fit in nicely into an 80s rom com like Real Genius, “Dead in Your Head” has something of an inspirational backbeat paired with dichotomous lyrics like, “Time to figure out where it all went wrong/’Cause you know, baby, it’s gonna hit you so hard.” Clavin regrets, “I never wanted to hurt the boy I loved the most…/When you lie in bed at night/Do you start to dream about all the things dead in you head?” It is, quite possibly, the best track from Ride You Heart.
“Dreaming Without You” at once sounds like David Bowie’s “Heroes” meets a Katy Perry ballad. Although it’s not one of the most remarkable songs on the album, it serves as an appropriate midpoint for transitioning into the latter half of the record. “Waiting By the Telephone,” a subtle nod to Blondie, is one of the most punkish offerings on Ride Your Heart.“ It also expresses the now quaint concept of actually waiting for a boy to call as opposed to text. In earnestness, Clavin sings, “I keep waiting for you to call/I keep waiting for you, my dear/Waiting by the telephone/It shouldn’t take this long.”
The dronish beat of “Love Spells”—a common phenomenon in L.A.—make it one of the most standout beats on the record. Clavin irritatedly remarks, “Told you once/Yeah, I told you before/Your love spells don’t work anymore.” It’s a line that could easily be exchanged between an unknown actress and her much older agent. “Searching Through the Past” takes the sound of Bleached even further past the 70s and into the Shangri-Las era of the 60s—if the Shangri-Las had been prone to a less maudlin tone. Though, make no mistake, Bleached is perfectly capable of being trite with the lyrics, “Boy, don’t tell me I’m crazy/’Cause I been missin’ you so long/Baby won’t you please come on back to me?” The album’s title track is lackadaisically upbeat, as the Clavins harmonize over the lyrics, “If you change your mind, if you wanna try…” “Ride Your Heart” is easily one of the most unique tracks on the album. Assuring, “I’m going to ride your heart,” it’s clear by this point in the album that the Clavins have delivered on that promise.
The aptly titled “Dead Boy” delivers the succinct dilemma: “I keep on living for the dead boy that I love.” Whether this is literal or metaphorical can be left to the listener’s discretion since—as anyone who has even been in a relationship will tell you—it’s quite easy to presume someone dead once you’ve broken up with them. “Guy Like You” is the most beach-friendly rhythm on Ride Your Heart, with the opening line, “You said the sun it still shines, but I don’t know baby ‘cause I don’t think so anymore/What am I supposed to do with a guy like you?/Always keepin’ me blue.” It reiterates a common motif in Bleached’s wheelhouse—which is to say: Being disappointed by men.
The final track, “When I Was Yours,” has something of an 80s feel to it. Reminiscent of The Beatles’ “I Saw Her Standing There,” the track begins with the tale, “I saw him standing there and I knew I had to make him mine.” Referring to the eventual break-up between them, Clavin laments, “The boys these days aren’t really my kind of guy.” Pleading, “Please take me back to when I was yours,” this song illustrates an inability to replace the one you truly love in spite of trying. Moreover, it expresses an innate sense of melancholic nostalgia that stems from wanting to return to a certain time in your life even though you know it wouldn’t be half as good as you had romanticized it in your mind.