ALBUM REVIEW: Blondshell - Blondshell
No-frills rock thrills on accomplished debut album from 25-year-old, Sabrina Teitelbaum
Straightforward grunge-influenced rock music seems a rare beast these days. More often than not, bands will rely heavily on synths or lean into the psych subgenre or fit more into the slightly watered-down world of indie.
That’s not to say that these routes don’t offer plenty in today’s music offering, but this is more to highlight that when an artist lays down no-frills rock that could translate easily into a gig setting with a drum kit and a few guitars with amps, there’s a certain thrill this elicits.
Much of Ty Segall’s output hits the spot on this front, while Wolf Alice and Royal Blood are examples in the UK of producing a straightforward rock dynamic bereft of nuances commonly a feature of the wider band scene.
Add to this list Blondshell – the project of 25-year-old, LA-based Sabrina Teitelbaum. The nine tracks on her debut album capture uncomplicated rock tracks which could have been recorded live. Uncomplicated does not mean not compelling, however. Fusing influences from the likes of Nirvana, The Cranberries and Anna Burch, Teitelbaum wears her heart on her sleeve as she chronicles a difficult couple of years which spawned Blondshell.
The self-titled record bursts to life with ‘Veronica Mars’ – a two-minute, verse/chorus/guitar solo blast with the TV show referred to in the title causing Teitelbaum to reflect on its impact on her when watching at an early age. Singing ‘Logan’s a dick, I’m learning that’s hot’, Teitelbaum laments the mixed messaging the show could provide to young minds, with the rock track melting away at the end via a red-hot unhinged, high-pitched guitar solo.
‘Kiss City’ is slightly longer than two minutes but feels like it should last longer. Detailing the confusing world of internet dating/hook-up apps during the pandemic, Teitelbaum finds herself feeling disconnected from the casual relationship reality of that world and struggling to be honest with dating partners about this. Singing ‘I think my kink is when you tell me that you think I'm pretty’, the attention gained on such apps isn’t exactly unwanted but intentions clearly diverge.
‘Olympus’ is a dreamy indie song about the pitfalls of trying to constantly find excitement while ‘Salad’ works as the centrepiece of the record, driving guitar and drums accompanied by pensive xylophone in the verses which builds to a full band chorus, plus piano, which apes Queens of the Stone Age’s ‘Go With the Flow’. The uncomfortable atmosphere of the song calls to mind The Cranberries with Teitelbaum’s singing in the chorus similar to that of English singer, Jade Bird.
‘Sepsis’ is a slow, loud-quiet, grunge rock headbanger about making the same mistakes in relationships, ‘Sober Together’ is a tender song about wanting to help others on the road to sobriety stay in that zone having been there herself and ‘Joiner’ features great vocal harmonies over an acoustic guitar-led, Britpop-sounding soundtrack capturing the tension between helping someone in the depths of a bender or joining them.
Sparse, King Krule-like guitar introduces ‘Tarmac’ – a song about being in love with the feeling of being in love rather than being in love with that person and is lifted by its grunge-rock chorus. Teitelbaum’s voice sparkles on final track, ‘Dangerous’, with only a delicately plucked electric guitar for company as she frames the social anxieties which are a big part of her psyche. This closing song conjures up comparisons with singer-songwriter, Hayley Henderickx, suggesting options to pursue a folkier side of the rock spectrum as her career progresses.
The sound throughout is cohesive with Yves Tumor-producer, Yves Rothman, teasing out something quite impressive from Teitelbaum as Blondshell. Confessional, edgy, compelling, Blondshell is an accomplished offering belying its debut album status.
Blondshell is out this Friday (7 April) via Partisan Records