For several years, Jessica and Jennifer Clavin took the Los Angeles punk scene by storm with their thrash-pop act Mika Miko, a tenacious all-female ensemble that paved the way for like-minded rising stars such as Abe Vigoda and No Age. The siblings have reunited as the duo Bleached, and their sound has been scaled back from the riotous phonic salvos of the their previous incarnation, though that doesn’t make the material any less dynamic. With a sonic approach that can most straightforwardly be described as Black Flag meets Best Coast, Bleached implements a cleaner production aesthetic while leaning more heavily toward popular influences, and the result is an effort that, while not quite as immediately memorable as Mika Miko’s early works, carves out a fresh niche for the sisters.
Ride Your Heart doesn’t strive to raise the bar, only to hang its hat on one that’s already been firmly set. Opening with the appropriately grouchy “Looking for a Fight,” the album surges ahead with a surprisingly comfortable, surfy familiarity that’s every bit as groovy as Mika Miko’s sleek, often misjudged swan song, We Be Xuxa. Instant highlight “Next Stop” embodies a 1960s California vibe, with a vintage atmosphere that evokes sun-kissed leather and idling choppers parked seaside. “Outta My Mind” is a spiraling examination of post-breakup malaise, while “Dead Boy,” which is particularly noteworthy for its intermingling of the Calvins’ siren-esque voices, tells a wry tale about fawning over a deceased paramour. Most impressive is “Searching Through the Past,” a fetching bubblegum-pop number with an intoxicating riff, spiritedly bouncing around a simple yet effective set of lovelorn lyrics: “I’ve been dreaming about the facts/Wishing more time could pass/Boy, don’t tell me I’m crazy/Cause I’ve been missing you so long.”
The album loses focus when things slow down, as on the chilly, congealed “Dreaming Without You,” an uneven ballad that aims to replicate Dum Dum Girls’ winning brand of romantic farce, but flounders due to its draggy pacing. “Waiting by the Telephone,” “Love Spells,” and “Guy Like You” suffer from the phoned-in, generic nature of their just-been-spurned messages, but nevertheless manage to satisfy with their jangling guitars and punchy percussion. Ride Your Heart is an above-average debut that proves the Calvin sisters are willing to shed a good deal of their rough exteriors while still maintaining the alluring audacity that elevated them from relative unknowns to L.A. indie-rock keystones.