The cover art for ‘Lung Bread For Daddy’ is the final death knell in Beth Jean Houghton’s early persona. Emerging in 2008 as a twee psych-folkster, the Newcastle musician was a parody of femininity in false eyelashes and Dadaist body paint. The self-portrait on her third album sees her denuded of artifice, her face scrubbed clean of make-up and the hues designed to emphasise her tiredness. It’s as process of stripping back that reflects her approach to composing. Songs about sweet tooth birds were replaced by aggressive directness on the grungy glam-punk of ‘Welcome Back To Milk’, on which she rebranded herself Du Blonde.
Her new album is less of a wholesale reinvention than a bedding down of self-sufficiency, with her playing all of the instruments except drums. The sound remains grounded in the ’70s, with Mick Ronson’s guitar a spidery influence on ‘RBY’. Yet it’s largely moved away from glam and towards classic ’70s rock, the histrionic soloing on opening track ‘Coffee Machine’ being contrasted with lyrical alienation (“Let me breathe in my own sheets one last time”) and the bluesy licks on ‘Baby Talk’ being as dirty as the production.
This musical directness is nonetheless juxtaposed with moments of space. ‘Peach Meat’ opens with just a deep fuzz bass and vocals, before alternating with garage rock. The pretty piano line on ‘Days Like These’ could have been drafted from her debut album and closing number ‘On The Radio’ has the warm muddiness of The Beatles.
It’s a sound that still leaves room for dark humour, with the distorted guitar on ‘Holiday Resort’ finding her ‘Pulling pubic hairs from the crotch of my swimming costume’. It’s an image that almost literally finds her washing her dirty linen in public, an honesty that’s compelling although sometimes lacking the memorable hooks of her formative work.