by Ryan Fine
When you have a band made up of three women, for some reason it becomes impossible for the media to focus on anything else. Such is the struggle of the Los Angeles pop-punk band Bleached, who is increasingly in demand for festivals since signing to Dead Oceans a few years ago. After releasing two full-length albums and hearing the question, “What’s it like to be a girl in a band?” one too many times, the band has crafted another short EP to channel their frustration.
Bringing on the energy…in some places
Can You Deal? begins with its skippy yet aggressive title track, whose contrasting moods make it one of the highlights from the first listen. The verses dodge the beat like an elementary school playground rhyme, making it feel like the rest of the record will be just as fun, but the chorus tells another story. As soon as it arrives, the drums go into double speed and the whole thing becomes much more punkish and angry. “Dear Trouble” is equally impressive musically, shifting seamlessly between moods of contempt and timid self-doubt.
“Flipside” is the simplest song on the EP, working in the same vein as many other spacious pop groups. It is a welcome change of pace between two cuts that are much more hard-hitting. Unfortunately, also sandwiched between them is the clumsy “Turn to Rage”. This track starts as the most face-melting rock song Bleached has made to date, but just as Clavin begins singing directly about her rage, the music instantly becomes slower and less emotionally charged. Sudden changes of pace are great when they work, but here they just make the song trip over itself and lose any momentum it might have previously built.
Playing in the lyrical kiddie pool
The great thing about the EP format is that it allows an artist to be quick and to the point. If there’s something important that needs to be said, it’s not that hard to hold people’s attention through the duration of the shortened product. The downfall is that if there’s an aspect of the record that’s not as fleshed out as it could be, or a song that’s noticeably weaker than the others, it affects the overall quality a lot more than it would on a full-length album.
For Can You Deal?, that weak point is the lyrics. The band had some great ideas for songs, but none of them reached their full potential because they couldn’t seem to scratch below a surface level for lyrical ideas. They attempt to describe their emotions on complex social issues with lines like “I’m really feeling heated,” or otherwise make use of age-old clichés like “Baby I wanna be your slave” or “Round and round, we can go all night.”
The only place where the basicness really works is the pointed closing track “Dear Trouble”. This track personifies the narrator’s internal bickering in a very direct way, which is summarized by the simple refrain of “Dear trouble, go away.” It’s just enough to tell the story and nothing more, which is a nice final thought to a record that doesn’t usually go far enough.
A melting pot or an identity crisis?
Out of context, there’s nothing actually wrong with the musical content of these four songs. The songwriting is rooted in snappy punk music, but the clear, spaced-out production style ensures that it isn’t heavy enough to lose its immediate appeal. Bleached offers a different take on pop-punk from most of the more popular groups in the genre, but its necessary qualities – its catchiness mixed with a tame aggression – are still there in droves.
The problem for Bleached is that most of it has already been done by their contemporaries. Listening through the record can lead to an odd sense of déjà-vu if you’re familiar with bands as diverse as Sleigh Bells, Cults, and even Queens of the Stone Age. It doesn’t necessarily mean that Bleached copied those bands on purpose, but it still makes me want to listen to those other bands instead, especially because in most cases, they pulled off the idea better in the first place.
This will not break the album for a lot of people, especially those who are more familiar with pop-punk music than indie or alternative. Still, even though I could see a lot of people enjoying this record quite a bit, I’m not sure Bleached is about to become anyone’s favorite band because of it.
“Can You Deal?”
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All Images From: Multipix
Can You Deal?
Up to this point, Bleached has not been known for the complexity of their music, but sometimes it seems like they did not even give this EP the same attention as their full studio albums. The strange way the media handles all-girl bands is a subject that has not been covered often in music, so it would have been nice to see Bleached flesh it out as much as it deserved. It’s a great sounding record, and despite its similarities to other recent music, it has a lot of solid ideas. Unfortunately, it is stifled by a lack of creativity in the lyrics, and ends up feeling like an average collection of songs from a band that has a lot more promise than they’re showing.
Ryan is a Music Media Production major who wrote the first ever Byte music review and has been involved with nearly every other section at some point. He is also an event planner at Village Green Records and the primary booking coordinator for the store’s outdoor concerts.