[Dead Oceans, 2013]
We all know of the double standards placed within gender distinctions; the fact that men are glorified for some of the very things that women are chastised for pervades everyday life in the most profound ways. Bette Davis perhaps laid out the tragic divide best, saying, “When a man gives his opinion, he’s a man. When a woman gives her opinion, she’s a bitch.” Some people may think that Stephenie Meyer set women’s progression back hundreds of years by creating the most helplessly dependent, boy-crazy character–perhaps of all-time–in Twilight Saga’s Bella Swan (she probably did), but there is still something to be said for the fact that Meyer challenged those injustices head-on by saying it’s okay for this girl to live her life for a boy (it’s probably not). The point is, if it makes you happy, it’s nobody else’s business. These double standards are perhaps no more prominent than in music, however.
When the Beach Boys weren’t singing about surfing, they were singing about girls (often at the same time). No one thought less of them because they were men (despite the name) and chasing women is looked on as admirable quality in men. It stretches far beyond the Beach Boys–in either direction–for men to sing of their love for women, but the lack of equality in this regard across the gender gap is what makes a record like Bleached’s debut, Ride Your Heart, so intriguing. The succinct twelve-track collection of songs barely stretches out over half an hour, but the Clavin sisters–Jennifer and Jessie–seem to chronicle their every sun-soaked romance under their native Los Angeles skies, and instead of feeling diminishing to their gender, it’s refreshing to hear such candor and fun on the subjects of love and sex much in the same vein that their male forebears have gotten away with monopolizing over the years.
Bleached’s zero-fucks-given approach to the love song is on display right from the start with “Looking For A Fight;” the Clavins rip through surf-ready riffs displaying a fresh attitude and independence that anyone even slightly engrained in the dating world of 2013 should be familiar with. The record seems packed with booze-fueled mascara streaks and ripped tights, but really carries a lot of dignity and power to stand on one’s own, all for the sake of finding a voice and respect in a music industry that has for so long been run by boys. It is a message, not an offhand coincidence, that Ride Your Heart begins with the personal rallying cry, “I lock you home at night, but you better steer clear / ‘Cause I’m looking for a fight / I lock you home at night, but you better steer clear / ‘Cause you know I’m not right.” By turning the “can’t live with them, can’t live without them” around and delivering it with a punk rock snarl, Bleached establish their modus operandi quite quickly.
It’s partly that attitude that makes Ride Your Heart a unique and engaging listen. “Waiting by the telephone / Waiting for you to call” (“Waiting By The Telephone”) and “Baby won’t you please / Please come on home” (“Searching Through The Past”) don’t carry any hint of desperation or dependence when put in the context of a sloppy punk record. In fact, Bleached give off the air that really, they don’t care one way or the other if he calls or comes home, but if he does he’d better do it soon because they have better things to do than wait around. It’s spun in a way that it’s in his best interest to seek her protection.
Ultimately, Ride Your Heart isn’t a record that’s going to break any sonic ground. It’s a raw record full of fuzzy guitars and fuzzier hooks, concepts that seem to pervade indie culture at every turn. It’s the unabashed stance of these two girls bearing their lives to the listening world without a hint of reproach or fear of judgment that is what breaks new ground. Bleached are among the most honest and intriguing songwriters in recent memory, with the Clavins hanging with the boys with ease.