Blood Red Shoes



by Brendan Schroer CONTRIBUTOR (209 Reviews)
January 18th, 2022 | 10 replies

Release Date: 01/14/2022 | Tracklist

Review Summary: One foot in the garage, one foot in the dark unknown.

Even in a medium of quickly changing trends, the speed at which the 2000s garage rock revival crashed and burned utterly fascinates me. Seriously, how many of those bands get brought up today? Once in a while you’ll find someone talking about The White Stripes, The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys, etc., but a good 90% of the groups from the era have been completely buried by the passage of time. To be fair, much of the reasoning for this - similar to grunge - lies in the oversaturation of terrible clones trying to cash in on the genre (see: Jet). However, there are still a few bands from the scene who are alive and kicking even in 2022; enter late bloomers Blood Red Shoes.

I say “late bloomers” because the band got their start during the decline of the garage rock revival, putting out their debut Box of Secrets as late as 2008. But the record fit in nicely with the trends of the time, even sharing the same male/female duo setup as The White Stripes (just reverse the genders respective to the instruments they play!). If there’s anything that explains why Blood Red Shoes have stayed afloat for this long, I think it has to do with their willingness to experiment with their tried-and-true formula over the years. As the other groups were dropping like flies, this duo weren’t afraid to add styles such as alternative rock, stoner rock, and indie rock into the mix to remain fresh and relevant. In fact, 2019’s Get Tragic even saw them integrating more electronic elements into their sound.

So where does GHOSTS ON TAPE fit into all of this? Well, it’s basically an amalgamation of everything I’ve listed above, only with a much more sinister atmosphere. Drummer and co-vocalist Steven Ansell stated that the album title was meant to convey that he and bandmate Laura-Mary Carter were putting their darkest thoughts - hence their “ghosts” - onto tape, and the duo have certainly delivered in that regard. Not only are the lyrics much more bleak and cynical, but the increased focus on electronic soundscapes and slower tempos has led to something of a musical reinvention as well. Much more emphasis is placed on tension and release this time around, with the ominous buildup and strange anti-climax of opener “COMPLY” being a perfect example. The tune is a wonderful exercise in suspense, as creepy melodies are met with vocals that gradually rise in distortion and aggression. It’s a bit of an unconventional way to open GHOSTS ON TAPE, but that’s precisely why it’s so compelling.

That’s not to say that the record completely deviates from the core Blood Red Shoes sound, and a decent chunk of the album retains the fuzzed-up guitar riffs and garage rock vibe of the duo’s previous work. But the way Carter and Ansell have imbued such foreboding synthwave and early 80s post-punk influences into their sound really makes this a unique entry in their discography. Just listen to “SUCKER”, whose droning guitars and cold synth leads would make a perfect fit in a seedy nightclub, or the dingy industrial vibes found in the verses of “DIG A HOLE”. Meanwhile, the three interludes - the ones with parenthesis/lowercase titles instead of ALL CAPS ones - channel the same dark energy into smaller, more ambient cuts. And these tracks are pretty unnerving just as many of the full-length tunes are; “(you claim to understand)”, for instance, features weird tape-reversing effects that sound as though they came straight out of an old-school supernatural horror film.

The one thing that holds back GHOSTS ON TAPE is that it isn’t quite consistent enough with these newfound stylistic shifts. For every cool idea that pushes their sound in a bold new direction, there’s often a boring, dated garage rock riff right around the corner; simply put, anything on this album that harks back to the band’s early work is the most predictable and formulaic material on offer. All too often, the record becomes a juggling act between the old and new without picking a side, and considering how compelling this new facet of their sound is, perhaps they should commit to it a bit more. However, it’s worth applauding the fact that Carter and Ansell decided to dive into uncharted waters in the first place. It’s becoming pretty clear why Blood Red Shoes are one of the few bands of their scene who actually survived each trend; they were willing to adapt and explore interesting new avenues throughout their career. And GHOSTS ON TAPE happens to be another cool stylistic swerve, albeit one that could use a little more focus and polish. Still, they’re onto something truly excellent.

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user ratings (13)

Comments:Add a Comment 
Contributing Reviewer
January 18th 2022


Album Rating: 3.5

My first review of a new album this year, sweet :]

Staff Reviewer
January 18th 2022


Great write up master. I used to like one album of these fellas but what I heard off this one didn't really do it for me.

Digging: Ethel Cain - Preacher's Daughter

January 18th 2022


shit i remember this band. they had that song about the sea.

Digging: Minor Threat - Out of Step

January 18th 2022


It's a nice write-up, but I disagree with the premise of that first paragraph. Sure, the Strokes had a (supposedly) great album and then disappeared, but the White Stripes, Black Keys, Arctic Monkeys, Kings of Leon etc all had plenty of longevity throughout the decade before fading into irrelevance, which is something that happens with most mainstream genres and bands.

They'll probably all reunite and play some massive sold out tours sometime this decade as nostalgia hits its peak when their fanbase collectively hits its midlife crisis.

Contributing Reviewer
January 18th 2022


Album Rating: 3.5

@Dewi: Thanks!

@Mort.: Yeah, that was It's Getting Boring by the Sea. Good tune

@Sitar: I can understand where you're coming from. I guess I was speaking more on the fact that the actual cultural relevance and commercial peak of the genre was really short-lived, even by the standards of other short-lived trends. Plus the fact that there hasn't been much public interest in resurrecting it like there has been for nu-metal or grunge. But as you said, it might happen sometime soon once enough time has passed, so who knows

January 18th 2022


Album Rating: 3.5

I enjoyed this quite a bit. The whole time I was listening to it though I was thinking it sounds like a ballstothewall or trey album.

Digging: Slomosa - Slomosa

Contributing Reviewer
January 19th 2022


Album Rating: 3.5

lol, I can see what you mean by the ballstothewall mention

January 20th 2022


Seen this duo live, excellent musicians

Contributing Reviewer
January 20th 2022


Album Rating: 3.5

I imagine they'd be pretty fun to see live, I might have to get on that (covid-pending, of course)

January 28th 2022


Revisiting this after a week or so, slow start to the year for new releases ... Pretty much agree on the review.

On the references to The Strokes and Arctic Monkeys, I'd have to (controversially?) state that, in my opinion, the latest releases from both bands have been their second best despite being the greatest evolution from their relative debuts!

I'm not as aware of the Blood Red Shoes back catalogue to comment re them, but I'll be checking them out now!

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