Britain has a pretty decent reputation for producing quality musical duos. The Kills, Royal Blood, Slaves, The Ting Tings… the list goes on. There’s something about two mates tearing it up that we love. It’s a bit more primal than a full on four or five piece group; guitar and drums, sorted.
It’s a formula Blood Red Shoes had nailed. On their previous four records they scuzzed out with fun but ferocious indie-rock without ever troubling the public consciousness.
On fifth album, Get Tragic, Laura-Mary Carter and Steven Ansell broaden their palette to create a more versatile sound, from which you can conclude they have discovered synthesizers. A discovery borne of time apart, ill-fortune and a sequence of darkly comic events (dodgy managers, broken hearts and God-fearing villagers) to rival the Goss Bros.
“You know how bands get a difficult second record? We got a difficult fifth record,” says Steven. “There couldn’t have been anything else against us, the whole damn time – starting with ourselves.”
The forced sabbatical from the guitar led to an exploration of the aforementioned synth and an opportunity to push the envelope on what they thought they knew about creating music together.
From the album’s cover, featuring the pair looking magazine ready (the first time they have featured on an LP sleeve) to the sound of the songs feeling like something leftover from 2007, it feels like a disjointed record.
That’s not to say there aren’t a few shining moments. On Bangsar, Steven ruminates on his time on sabbatical where he spent days and nights mostly shit-faced and in the company of various miscreants: “You speak to me, your second hand poetry, I grit my teeth at the stories you’re telling me.”
Reflection on their time apart is also apparent on Finding My Own Remorse, a sweeping ballad reminiscent of Grandaddy’s brand of optimistic misery.
Over heavy, angsty riffs, Anxiety begins by asking, “What if I’m not good enough to get the things I really want?”
The only single released from the album so far, Mexican Dress, hints at the band’s refocused ambitions as Laura-Mary sings, “Sitting in the front seat singing a song, like the freaks in the magazines that you wanna get on.” Critical acclaim by the indie press is no longer going to cut it for Blood Red Shoes.
On one hand they have created songs which wouldn’t be out of place on Radio 1, while on the other, fans of the band may not initially feel as comfortable with Get Tragic. It’s not a terrible record or a particularly good one but it certainly feels like a transition for a band ready to start moving up the bill on the summer festival circuit.