It would be a real stretch of logic to call Blood Red Shoes original or inventive. Indeed, they seem to be evangelists for an old world, conservative sound of the unleaded guitar, touring incessantly, mostly in Europe, in order to preach. And preach they do. Much of Blood Red Shoes’ output is driven as much by passion as by raw skill. They’ve been at it for about eight years now without relent in a flurry of guitar effects, pounding drums, dual vocals and abstract lyrics about being bored and/or disappointed. One wonders how it’s possible to be passionate about being bored, but it hasn’t not worked so far. Box of Secrets and Fire Like This are effective cocktails of passion and skill, the latter having some of the best singles of 2010-11. It’s evident that they can gain sustenance from this dynamic and in turn excrete something of genuine feeling if not something entirely remarkable.
Their new record In Time to Voices has all the sullen stamps of Blood Red Shoes, encapsulating the feeling of being woken up to a bad day that neither improves nor worsens as the hours pass, but certain turns made this time around allude to a day being relived in one’s head imagining different courses taken. The titular opening track begins with Laura-Mary Carter’s sultry vocals and hits a consistent mid-tempo groove that continues through to the following two tracks, hitting its stride with the droning guitar and pounding drums of “Cold,” the album’s strong first single. The album shifts to something of a electro-pop dirge with “Two Dead Minutes,” “Silence and the Drone” which crescendos with a string arrangement, and the largely acoustic “Night Light.” “Je Me Perds” is the only track that really recalls BRS’s noise/punk roots and love of existential conundrum. (“What the fuck am I doing here/Lying face down on the floor?” asks drummer Steven Ansell rather loudly.)
With In Time to Voices, the band themselves claim they are broaching new territory with their music, or at least in how they render it, preferring not to go the blast-by-blast route replicating their live show. I suppose that’s another way of saying they want to take more time in the studio, to edit out excesses in one place and inject them into another. They’ve retreated from their baser energies and impulses, for the most part, to create something more ponderous and simmering. It’s meant to reveal BRS as a band of variations, previously unseen perhaps even by the band themselves. That is the ambition; to be sure this means slower songs and less rage, and as a whole it is less thrilling than the albums that bore “I Wish I Was Someone Better” and “Heartsink.” It is, rather, an album that works in moments, in which listening less carefully elicits those well-known moments of feeling, passion and skill; whether it is a particularly pristine vocal line (and there are a few throughout), subtle production quirks, a well-used lyrical simile or anything else less evident on the obligatory layer of fuzz.
Video: Blood Red Shoes – “Cold”