Bleached - Welcome The Worms

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Over the years, the way Jessie and Jessica Clavin have expressed their Cali punk essence has evolved from their garagey days in Mika Miko to the increasingly pop sound of Bleached. They'd already taken steps toward a bigger, more polished approach with Ride Your Heart, and with Welcome the Worms' chugging L.A. punk-pop, the transformation is complete. With the help of producer Joe Chiccarelli, the Clavins clean up their sound as their songwriting delves into life's messier side: The duo found inspiration in Jessie's eviction and the end of Jennifer's relationship. At first, the results are slick, hard-edged and almost unrecognizable; the driving "Keep On Keepin' On" and "Sleepwalking" feel more like the Donnas than the normally happy-go-lucky Clavins, who have the skills to sound tough but aren't as distinctive when they do. Fortunately, they doesn't forsake all of their raffish joie de vivre on Welcome the Worms. Even if the hedonism on songs like "Trying to Lose Myself Again" is self-destructive in the long run, having some fun when things are falling apart is an act of punk defiance. The album's middle stretch boasts some of the Clavins' finest songs with any of their projects: "Wednesday Night Melody" cruises in on Joan Jett riffs and makes Bleached's more controlled attack feel as natural as their earlier, more freewheeling music, while "Sour Candy" nods to the Ramones' work with Phil Spector as it captures the thrill of the moment: "The past ain't kind and the future scares me." Later on, "Chemical Air"'s sweeping keyboards and the surprisingly expansive choruses on "Desolate Town" show that the album's elaborate sounds offer Bleached a wealth of possibilities; as its title suggests,Welcome the Worms is a portrait of embracing life's changes and challenges and growing stronger in the process.

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