I’d like to consider myself a fan of guitar music and the various associated genres, but the fact that it has taken five reviews at TSR to actually look at an album by a guitar band may be representative of the state of modern rock music. It’s by no means at its peak and frankly it has been regressing since the middle of the last decade in terms of both popular appeal and musical originality.
I wouldn’t say that Brighton-based alt-rock duo Blood Red Shoes are likely to change that any time soon, but their new album In Time to Voices is a pleasant revelation. The opening title track begins with sparse chords and a ghost-like vocal, but gradually builds into an intense angsty chorus.
In fact, angsty is quite a good word to describe the album as a whole. The band have slightly toned down their punk roots (with the exception of the intense Je Me Perds) and found a style that remains somewhat oppressive yet is complemented with more memorable, crowd-pleasing melodies. Comparisons to The White Stripes are inevitable, particularly for a male-female duo, and while the influence is apparent (as with pretty much every other rock band in the 21st century) Blood Red Shoes manage to avoid sounding overly samey.
The first single, Cold, opens to a fast-paced drum solo and develops into something of a vocal competition between the band mates through the verses and an incredibly catchy chorus. Night Light is more subdued yet pleasingly gloomy, while Lost Kids discusses childhood fear and feelings of abandonment, leading to the somehow melodically uplifting refrain of: “And I can’t find my way, already buried anyway.”
The album dips at the end, which is unfortunate considering the sense of aggression and excitement instilled earlier on. The opening to Slip into the Blue reminded me of Nirvana’s Polly, and was predictably disappointing in comparison. The following two tracks, Down Here in the Dark and 7 Years, definitely aren’t bad, but they don’t do enough to distinguish themselves from the rest of the album.
In Time to Voices isn’t going to restore the love of guitars in the hearts of the masses. Where rock music needs an atomic bomb, Blood Red Shoes have produced a firecracker. It’s a pretty damn impressive firecracker though, and should hopefully bring them the attention they have deserved since their début back in 2008. It’s not my favourite rock album of the year; that honour (?) still rests in the hands of The Black Keys. It has succeeded in making an impression though, a step in the right direction for a genre which has been stubbornly retreating for far too long.
Favourite Tracks: Je Me Perds, Cold, Night Light
Least Favourite Track: Down Here in the Dark