Du Blonde - Welcome Back To Milk - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Du Blonde - Welcome Back To Milk

by Rob Taylor Rating:6 Release Date:2015-05-18

Beth Jeans Houghton has a new moniker, Du Blonde, said to be a transformation from anti-folk nightingale to rock ‘n’ roll agitator. The title, Welcome Back to Milk, hints at the change of musical focus being organic, an artistically credible shift to the core of Beth’s current musical interests, rather than a commercial sell-out.  

The cover picture of the denuded artist is a metaphor for a singer cast naked and reborn, an erotic beast unshackled and set to pounce on a new marketplace. Rock ‘n’ roll is the appropriate vehicle for expressing primal energy both at a physical and emotional level. 

Whether this change of persona is transitory or permanent will depend on how Du Blonde’s obvious restlessness is expressed in future years. ‘Du’ is a contraction of the words ‘of’ and ‘the’ and could simply mean ‘The Blonde’, but a more interesting observation is that du jour alludes to something enjoying great but probably short-lived popularity or publicity, and du rigueur something required by etiquette or current fashion. I’m not sure whether it’s a coincidence, or something deliberate and a sign of personal uncertainty, but Welcome Back to Milk does seem to me to represent an artist in a holding pattern. 

Of course, Du Blonde can be whatever artist she chooses to be, but the bi-polarity of Welcome Back to Milk leaves me confused about exactly who Beth Jeans Houghton is as an artist. An outsider punk or purveyor of slick mainstream pop? 

The song ‘Black Flag’ is grungy blues with some interesting Middle Eastern scales, and a wonderfully enduring melody. It’s a statement of intent, but its promise is not affirmed on ‘Chips to Go’ and ‘Raw Honey’, the former repetitive and leaden, the latter a forgettable pop song with alt-country tinges.

‘If You’re Legal’ returns to the game plan as the drums roll, and the guitars strum between snarling phrases directed at some guy, clearly shrivelling beneath Du Blonde’s feminist invective. ‘Hard to Please’ is another track burning with punk ferocity. ‘Mr Hyde’ burns initially, but ultimately fizzles for lack of invention.

However, the track with Future Islands singer, Samuel T Herring, ‘Mind I on My Mind’, is a beauty. Houghton’s voice, playfully exploring its high reach and offering a taste of its full capability, is used too little on this album. Samuel T Herring’s distinctive baritone delivers some raspy lines over catchy guitar runs. The best thing on the album.   

Having widespread commercial appeal can be an end in itself, but Beth Jeans Houghton seems, at least from what I’ve read, heard and perceived, wilful and talented enough to avoid the pitfalls of short-term popularity. There’s too much disposable pop on Welcome Back to Milk for my liking, but it also contains a few inspired moments suggesting Du Blonde could be a force to be reckoned with - if her future direction stays true to her beastly reincarnation.

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