Some bands have a lot of hype. Whether it’s justified, in this instance, probably depends on how much you like grimey, garagey guitar rifts and very fast, aggressive drumming. Stephen Ansell’s previous band, Cat On Form is long gone, but thankfully in its wake came the unlikely pairing of this duo (Stephen and Laura Mary Carter), named after Ginger Rogers’s infamous fallacy: that she danced so hard her shoes turned red with blood. They were, apparently, unwilling to add anyone else to the line up, even though they really wanted a bassist, in case it imbalanced the band’s chemistry; and so, Blood Red Shoes was born as a two person affair.
This does actually work in their favour since their sound is so primal and stripped down, following the much loved two instrument mantra favoured by artists like The White Stripes (ahem), that it embodies the DIY punk ethos from the scene they came in on. They signed to V2 (now an imprint of Universal) – a hard but necessary decision for the band (after all they have to eat too!). Now they unleash their long awaited debut onto the world…
Albums you’ve waited a long time for invariably have a knack of disappointing you. Fortunately, even though this album has been a long time in coming, it’s not piss poor. Thank fuck for that! It is a bit of a strange one though.
It holds some of those songs you might well have loved from their earlier days, like ‘ADHD’ and ‘It’s Getting Boring By The Sea’. The album name itself is about the things that these two (so close, and tight, and almost one) metaphorically store, the things they tell only each other (their ‘Box of Secrets’). You will probably already recognise their sound as loud and abrasive; a mismatch of fierce guitars, pounding drums and savagely passive aggressive lyrics sang in unison; there’s no change there. New single ‘Say Something, Say Anything’, a song vaguely about something “Stephen misses”, despite its high octane antics, is actually really sad. ‘I Wish I Was Someone Better’ is foot stompingly good with a legendary guitar rift stolen from Laura Mary’s previous band (it’s okay, she did write the song originally). ‘This is Not for You’ is a bit more punk in its implementation; for once, Laura Mary takes the lead on vocals, and it’s a more high pitched, primal affair.
The strength of this record lies in their ability to compliment each other musically; they sing around each other (sometimes as a ‘round’, sometimes in unison, sometimes in ‘harmony’); they play off beat and off key but it works because when this happens the other one keeps it on course. They have had some disasters live but, on record, they’ve pulled it together and it’s a very pleasurable listen indeed. The only criticism is that it can be quite samey. Their earlier singles do seem to stand out from more recent ones.
Some people might like to position Blood Red Shoes as a White Stripes rip off; stripping music down to its essentials. Difference is they don’t appear to be a band caught up in the own hype, producing some records which are excellent and some that are worthless pieces of shit; they at least have some consistency, which in my book, makes them far superior.