“Another Distressed Damsel” arises out of a stiff-fingered piano riff, minimalist drums kicking out, doubling back, repeating themselves, guitar arcing through like a nihilist beacon. It’s rooted in blues, this track, yet curiously cool, unsweaty, post-modern. That’s possibly due to Emily MacLaren’s voice, which is just a degree or two warmer than Allison Statton’s in Young Marble Giants. The combination of dirty rock grooves and chilled, untouchable sexuality makes In the Red one of the most interesting, female-fronted punk-garage records of recent memory, and it holds its fascination through multiple style shifts. “Damsel”, “Poppers” and the iridescent title track slouch through blues rock, while hand-clapped, barroom piano’d opener “Please Don’t Take This the Wrong Way” makes a morphine-muddled nod to Nico. “Two Wrongs” ventures further afield, into spooky, atmospheric textures, while “DaDaDa” song has a Latin slink in its piano-tambourine dialogue. There’s something almost Police-like in the way MacLaren’s bass talks to new-wavy guitars in album closer “Destroy Yourself”, though viewed through a dirty, scratched glass. Ultra rough production is the main problem — but maybe the secret to this debut’s scruffy charm. I’ve heard lots of punk bands clean up their second albums, only to discover there’s nothing there. Let’s hope that never happens to Michael Dracula.
Michael Dracula: In the Red