Bleached Sneak Up on You with Their Brand of Power Pop
Bleached's Don't You Think You've Had Enough? is a summer record with big sing-along power pop songs that deliver.
Don’t You Think You’ve Had Enough?
12 July 2019
Bleached's third album, Don't You Think You've Had Enough?, didn't click with me right away. I'd listened to it three or four times, and their big power pop hooks seemed fun but nothing to get excited about. And then, while walking around the grocery store with headphones on, the record suddenly started working. I was looking forward to each song and fighting the urge to sing along to those big power pop hooks and risk looking like a crazy person there in the store.
Bleached's sisters Jessie and Jennifer Clavin start at the basic big guitars, big drums, and big choruses of classic Cheap Trick or Weezer and spin out into a handful of other rock and pop touchpoints on Don't You Think You've Had Enough? Opener "Heartbeat Away" uses 6/8 time to give the song a particularly strong backbeat, with drummer Nick Pillot relentlessly hitting his snare on nearly every beat four. The crunchy guitars only hit on 1-2-3-4 in the verses, leaving beats five and six blank and giving the song a swing. Then on the chorus, the guitars crank up the volume and chug along on every beat, and the vocal harmonies come in, and the record has its first sing along.
"Daydream" uses a small collection of driving rock beats and nicely placed handclaps to propel a fun song anchored by Jennifer's slightly snotty, very '90s rock-sounding vocals. "Rebound City" is one of only a handful of tracks on the album to feature a prominent bassline, but its biggest selling point is the strong lyrics about bad relationships and regrets. It has a list of men that describes why they're unsuitable, concluding each with the line, "I don't want what I can have." "Silly Girl" is a bit muted on the verses and uses some effective background synths to go with its danceable beat. And then there's "Valley to LA", a sunny rocker reminiscing about teenage years. It's backed by organ and almost country guitar accents in the verses before bursting into a big, bright chorus.
The Clavins are clever enough musicians to keep Bleached from sounding monotone, so the songs where they stretch their sound are well placed throughout the album. The first single "Hard to Kill" uses a whistling hook and echoing disco guitars to lay down a thicker groove than usual for the band. A solid bassline and extra percussion including tambourine and cowbell add to the song's bounce. The refrain, "All the cities that I've burned down / Turns out I'm very hard to kill" gives the song a bit of spy/assassin intrigue.
"Hard to Kill" also includes the line "Friday I'm in Love", a Cure reference which pays off a few tracks later in "Somebody Dial 911", a slice of '80s-style pop which mimics that band's signature chiming, watery guitar tone and bright bass very effectively. "I Get What I Need" may be the album's biggest outlier, a catchy minute and 45 seconds of minor-key guitars playing on the upbeat, shuffling drums, and singing with stretched out vowels, complete with "OooOoooOooOoooOoooOooo" backing vocals. There's also "Shitty Ballet", which closes out the album with the sisters singing together over sloppy acoustic guitar chords. It's charming to hear Bleached change up the instrumentation while essentially changing nothing else about their songwriting. That is reinforced when the bridge ends with the full band coming in and rocking out for the final minute of the song to finish out the album.
However, the highlight of the album is a straight down the middle rocker that shows where the Clavins' true skill lies. The teen hijinks of "Valley to LA" included a reference to "growing pains and awkward phase" in its chorus, and a couple of tracks later, in the album's penultimate slot, "Awkward Phase" fully embraces that other side of American teenagerdom. A quiet verse filled with an undercurrent of tension opens the song before building into a pre-chorus that features Jennifer describing attempted late-night trysts and getting things caught in your braces. The pre-chorus crests with the phrase, "We used to hide out / We used to hide out", with the melody doubled in the guitar. This pushes into the driving chorus, with more doubled vocals and guitar, celebrating "Yeah, we made it through the teen awkward phase / I got some pictures I don't wanna explain" and advising any fellow awkward teens who are listening, "Yeah we made it out, we made it / Wait." It's a simple song, but the soaring melody and doubled guitar are extremely effective, especially because it's combined with lyrical sentiments that acknowledge both the excitement and discomfort of that time and a chorus that celebrates no longer being an awkward teen. This is the kind of subject matter power pop is perfect for, and by going as big and melodic as possible, Bleached nails it.
I'm already a big power pop fan, and that may be why Bleached is not particularly revolutionary take on the style didn't grab me at first. But their songwriting is solid and their hooks are really good. And I think that's why, once these songs settled in, they became so much fun. Don't You Think You've Had Enough? may not end up as an all-time great rock album, but as a summer record with big sing-along songs, it delivers.