When St. Vincent introduced her Einstein hair and excellent self-titled album last year, it was clear she had been reincarnated into a futuristic, alien being. Better still, it suited her because she decided it did. Reinvention stems from a desire to take on your true form at a given moment. It’s best illustrated by David Bowie, a musician who acted multiple times on this perpetual fluidity. The same is true for Beth Jeans Houghton. The polymath pop of 2012’s Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose, along with her old name and band, have been scrapped. Now known as Du Blonde, she is a 25-year-old aesthetic chameleon emerging on Welcome Back to Milk in a spiked collar of unrelenting attitude.
Welcome Back to Milk playfully stretches its tough skin. As punchy as “Black Flag”, “Chip to Go”, and “Mr. Hyde” are, they let her scream about unbridled revenge on love and revolting against authority. Her voice, reminiscent of Karen O, Cher, and Be Your Own Pet’s Jemina Pearl, powers through “If You’re Legal”, stirring up feedback the way her past self encouraged ‘70s folk. Du Blonde is heated, and she funnels it into inventive structures complete with Spanish horns and spiked bongos.
Her reinvention flares on the quickening “My Mind is on My Mind” featuring a brief monologue from Future Islands frontman Samuel T. Herring. She wrote the song while on the back of a motorbike spinning down the Pacific Coast Highway, repeating it to herself from Topanga to Malibu. It’s a power combo of eerie church chants, Indian bass rhythms, and tempered drums. Welcome Back to Milk gives Du Blonde’s blisteringly creative mind space to experiment, and her edits show immaculate choices.
When she originally went back into the studio in November of 2012, Houghton was disappointed. She was trapped in baroque pop that wouldn’t bend, so she bailed. The nine months she then spent traveling gave her time to locate the hidden glam rock core. Du Blonde steps out from behind her guitar to relish sassy lyrics wrapped in the emotional, punchy, inspirational climax of closer “Isn’t It Wild”. A recording of an elder’s advice on love opens up for reflections on identity. “Isn’t it wild how we love to indulge in the sorry-ass show of illusion/ In order to save us from our social grave?” she sings through a lo-fi crackle, floating along the song’s toy piano. It’s an ode to herself and the distance she’s come since ditching the studio three years ago. Du Blonde’s reinvention works. As with Clark last year and Bowie every decade prior, it suits her well, even if that means sporting a merkin in her cover art.
Essential Tracks: ” My Mind is on My Mind”, “Isn’t It Wild”, and “Black Flag”