If you closely examine a map of Los Angeles, you can see that the extensive highway system crisscrosses the city like faint lines on a palm. The 110’s downward curve lies adjacent to the line of fate. Fitting, since so many chase ambition and golden dreams straight to the dead center of Hollywood. The line of life rests on the azure Route 1 (better known as the Pacific Coast Highway) — a necessary border to the sun-bleached California spirit. I-10 courses through East Los Angeles and onward. The 10 surges through Los Angeles county, past California and beating on and on through the United States. It’s the line of the heart.
It’s impossible to separate the shoreline drives of California from the Clavins, the blonde siblings behind the punk-fueled Bleached. Birthed in East Los Angeles, Jennifer and Jessica Clavin have followed the trail from their thrashing L.A. predecessors, from The Descendents to NOFX, with a red-lipstick twist on punk directly injected into the heart.
Bleached unintentionally built a cult fanbase in their home state, stemming from the days of their previous band, Mika Miko. The band has since broken up, but their penchant for reeling riffs continues with Bleached, who have released just four 7-inches since the all-girl group converged in 2011. Two years later, Ride Your Heart arrives fashionably late as the band’s first full-length release on Dead Oceans. The duo’s long-awaited debut is rife with hook after hook of itchy guitar lines and razor-sharp drums.
Although rooted in heady punk rock, Bleached bleeds ‘60s pop and memories of girl groups when strained. The aimlessness of California is inescapable on Ride Your Heart, but the cynicism is entwined with the charm. The sweltering single “Dead in Your Head” particularly is half-cast in shadow with a morbid chorus calling out for “all the things dead in your head.”
The quick-before-the-cops-break-up-the-party tradition of punk songs remains alive and throbbing despite the occasional taste of sweetness. Headbanger “Love Spells” fluctuates nicely between a fuzz and honeyed pop number, while the title track is the album’s heaviest hitter, rushing straight into your core with dangerous percussion and needlepoint guitars. Tracks are curt but satisfying, clocking in at about three minutes at the max. The girls harken back to The Minutemen-esque urgency and The Ramones’ no-bullshit swagger without sounding like a broken record at any point.
Ride Your Heart works off succinct lyrics, but ones that exude a kind of honesty that only could have formed from past scars — now cleverly hidden by studded leather jackets. Sugary third track “Outta My Mind” slows down the pace set by the album’s first two tracks, the riveting “Next Stop” and the tough surf-punk anthem “Looking for a Fight”. The piano-driven “Outta My Mind” croons the listener as the Clavins harken back to The Shangri-Las’ penchant for love-centric melodrama: “Get outta my mind boy / You know I think about you all of the time.” Regret from a past relationship is present on “Searching Through the Past”, although it’s a lukewarm, nostalgic number by comparison to the strength of the rest of the album, where the vocals don’t quite hit with the punch that the track intends.
Still, the comparison to past influences, most notably Debbie Harry, is inevitable. After all, the anguish of “Waiting by the Telephone” shares close quarters to that of “Hanging by the Telephone”, although it’s far more impatient than Blondie’s classic single. If you’re searching for complexity, look elsewhere. Ride Your Heart is all no-fuss instrumentals and darling vocals tailored for a house party where the beer is flowing and the noise restrictions are null.
Amid The Rolling Stones-style ramblings and pop heart, Bleached’s Ride Your Heart is a cozy debut from a reeling band of rogue Californians. It isn’t remarkable, but it’s memorable in the way old photos crinkle in your hands. Hooky garage tracks crackle underneath a heart that beats steady, only occasionally arrhythmic. More than anything, Bleached’s rambling heart will guide you through the places where you left yours, maybe somewhere along the shadowed highways way out west.
Essential Tracks: “Next Stop”, “Dead in the Head”, and “Love Spells”