Let Us Now Praise Sexist Critics: A Completely Uncalled for Appraisal of the Fucking Excellent Band Bleached
I’m in my 40’s but I still get obsessed. With bands. I’ll cycle through a newfound artists’ catalog on repeat or dig up some semi-ignored old favorite and listen to nothing else for weeks on end. It’s what I do. And I feel a little silly about it, but whatever, who are you to criticize? I’m speaking my truth here. Isn’t that what this era of woke-ness is all about?
The band I’m about to write about though – this one is tough to cop to, because I’m scared I’ll come off like a perv. Fact is I’m not a perv though. It’s not my fault that the band members are females that are like half my age. More so it’s not the reason I listen to them. The short answer is that Bleached fucking rocks. And I’ve been listening to them for years – I don’t know exactly how many, I’ll guess 5 maybe – and the fact that they’re cute, that shit is irrelevant. So get your mind out of the gutter you sick ill-thinking motherfucker. Shit’s legit and so isn’t my appreciation of them – so if you think it’s weird for a middle-aged dude to be a fan, then that’s on you.
Bleached has been putting out consistently great, original guitar centric rock for close to ten years now. And for a band that sounds so good and plays with as much heart as these women do, they aren’t nearly well known enough; mark my words, they’re gonna be huge. When “Welcome to the Worms” came out in 2016 I was sure it was over. I figured I’d never be able to see them play outside of a stadium, but apparently I misjudged, because while that record was absolutely well received, it hasn’t broadened their fan base to the extent that I imagined. Therefore it must be this new record – coming out in July, titled “Don’t You Think You’ve Had Enough” – that will bring them the worldwide fame and massive accolades that I anticipated back then.
I really know very little about Bleached, beyond the fact that they are LA based and that the guitarist and lead vocalist are sisters – but these women clearly have an innate talent for divining infectiously-hummable melodies without sacrificing the rock. Their signature sound has the sheen of the best moments of Phil Specter era Ramones while giving the riffs a much-needed modern jangle. The lyrics and choruses are fantastically honest and clever. Straight up fucking poetry.
The band has released two singles in the past month in the lead up to the new album “Don’t You Think You’ve Had Enough” – the first, titled “Shitty Ballet” (how great is that fucking title?), starts out acoustic – a new tack for the band. Midway through the song however, the tempo gets upended, almost literally, with the guitar switching to electric with Jennifer Clavin, the front woman, screaming “I don’t know how to stop!” in full distorted hot-mic glory. One feels masterfully guided to the edge of human experience and I fucking love it. It feels like the literal embodiment of an artist realizing the extent of her powers and using them to take us to the edge of sanity. If this is a portent for things to come, then I’m fully on board.
I read a couple of articles/interviews in the process of writing this essay and a lot of what I read was focused on Clavin having to repeatedly answer the question, “What’s it like to be a woman fronting a rock band?” I can only imagine how supremely annoying it must be to have to waste exposure answering such an inane question, especially when you are so clearly ultra-talented and giving your all to your performances day in and day out. Which leads me to apologize for whatever sexism I’m bringing to the argument with the intro paragraph above; about the women being cute and me being a weird old dude. What it boils down to for me is that I’m a fan, an unabashed fan. I love it when an artist finds their way. When somebody with such clear talent and promise gets truly vulnerable and gives us the real. That’s the exciting shit. Especially when it rocks. Anybody who has read anything I’ve written knows I’m a huge Nirvana fan. Part of what made Cobain’s music so exciting was watching him wrestle with his own contradictions. You could almost see the tension inherent in staying true to his ambition without compromising the art, the voice, the honesty of what he was trying to describe. Watching the almost real-time drama of an artist trying to maintain the confidence to express oneself honestly, that vulnerability was what made the performance exciting. Daring. That and the inherent greatness of the songs, the melodies, the music part of the equation that I don’t have the vocabulary to parse, or even to understand frankly. You just know when it works.
“Wednesday Night Melody” the song with the most plays from 2016’s “Welcome to the Worms”
Bleached’s music has something of this same quality (it’s not lost on me that the very name of their group is at least a glancing reference to my favorite group). They are clearly great songwriters, but I haven’t quite worked out how this thing I’m talking about works (and I suspect I never will – it’s probably just the magic of art) – it’s more of a feeling than anything else – still I’m reminded of Nirvana’s ferocious honesty. It might be the cultural moment – women speaking their truth – it might be the maturation of an artist coming to understand what she’s capable of, or maybe something else I’m not quite sharp enough to pin down, I do know however, that it’s exciting to watch. I’m expecting big things from these women. For my money that last album, 2016’s “Welcome to the Worms” felt incredibly mature and ready for prime time, but then if “Shitty Ballet” is any kind of portent, then there’s clearly more to be revealed. And I can’t wait to hear it.