As reinventions go, they don’t get much more impressive than Beth Jeans Houghton’s.
The Newcastle singer’s debut album, Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose, was a technicolor ride of psych-folk and kooky theatrics. Three years, one breakdown and a scrapped album later and she’s returned with a fresh sound under the new guise Du Blonde.
It’s a change of direction that’s signalled by the sleeve of new album Welcome Back To Milk, on which she appears naked save for a fur coat and merkin. The imagery is appropriate for a sound that’s more raw, bluesy and sleazy than her earlier material.
That doesn’t mean it’s lost any of its delightful oddness: ‘Chips To Go’ is a punk opera that thunders along to Jacob’s drums; ’After The Show’ is a heady rush of Pixies-esque guitar (an indebtedness repaid when the band cover ‘Where Is My Mind?’); and ‘Hunter’ is just one weepy piano away from being Adele.
On a creative roll after the recent release of her second long player, she previews a couple of new tracks that suggest her well of anger remains far from drained: ‘Eden’ being a tantalising cross between early Blondie and PJ Harvey, while ‘Baby Talk’ is a blues breakdown full of enthusiastic backing vocals from her three-piece live band.
It’s a focus on the present that means no pre-Du Blonde material is played. Yet a testament to the quality of the new songs is that this isn’t even noticed until after the band has left the stage.
Gig date: June 5