What do you do when you realise, “I’ve been a queen, I’ve been a king, and still I don’t fit in”? Well, if you’re Du Blonde, aka Beth Jeans Houghton, you establish your own empire. New label Daemon T.V. is entirely her domain, a self-run creative platform for clothing, comics, artwork, and music – including her third record, ‘Homecoming’.
Du Blonde’s inventive spirit is nothing new. Alongside her own music and art, the Newcastle-born, London/LA-based artist animates zany music videos for the likes of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nasty Cherry, and Ezra Furman. But after the guitar swagger and dark dread of her first two albums, 2015’s ‘Welcome Back To Milk’, and ‘Lung Bread For Daddy’ in 2019, ‘Homecoming’ lights up with her DIY creativity.
She’s already earned her place among the guitar girl-band greats, from Hole and Elastica to The Primitives, and ‘Homecoming’ picks up the garage-pop baton for 24 energetic minutes. But even with Garbage’s Shirley Manson on board for brilliant track ‘Medicated’ – “You can’t just put a brain into a cast” – Du Blonde remains staunchly at the helm: ‘Homecoming’ is her ship to steer.
The album channels the boisterous nature of Holly & The Italians’ ‘Tell That Girl To Shut Up’, and its ten tracks feel similarly classic, like they’ve been around a jukebox a time or two. “I’m ready for my close-up,” Du Blonde sings on opener ‘Pull The Plug’, summoning the louche, weary glamour of Gloria Swanson, but surrounded by youthful guitar shredding.
‘Smoking Me Out’, with its distorted flamboyance, is camper than a Rocky Horror tune, while the album gets its swaying stadium moment on ‘All The Way’, featuring Ride’s Andy Bell. But not before Ezra Furman arrives for the duet of dreams on ‘I’m Glad That We Broke Up’, a scrappy sixties girl-group love song masquerading as a break-up track: the chorus coyly turns the title on its head with the added “…and I’m glad that you’re back”.
These are teen rock-and-roll anthems for grown-ups, poppy grunge that expresses the bleaker side of adulthood: bad habits, medicated behaviour, the dull paralysis of depression – “I look at the pile of clothes on the floor / I think about dressing / And then I lay down and think more”. The record’s DIY personality belies its precisely crafted lines, a killer combination of devil-may-care attitude and thoughtful lyricism.
“Don’t feel like talking when the whole world’s caving in”, she admits on ‘I Can’t Help You There’, but ‘Homecoming’ is less a call for silence, more a fuck-it vow to cut some slack and just have fun. The album opens with a belch – yet by the shoop-de-shoop slowdance of last song ‘Take Me Away’, some very different foibles are on show. “I’ve tried in my way / To tell you that I feel like dying a bit every day”, Du Blonde sings, a perfect coda to ‘Homecoming’s sugar-coated, jukebox-grooving distress.