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Isn't it odd that the transformation, or to give it a more creative title, the reinvention, of Beth Jeans Houghton, has been met with such a commotion? Decades ago, ambitious artists were expected to change their music and their image with each release - one only has to look at the work of David Bowie and Kate Bush, to name but two.

In case you aren't fully up to date on the story, what has happened is that the artist formerly known as Beth Jeans Houghton and the Hooves of Destiny has jettisoned the kooky folk-pop of that particular incarnation, and returned in dramatic fashion as Du Blonde.

Du Blonde's debut album Welcome Back to Milk may not be as extreme as the attention-seeking, merkin-wearing cover photo suggests, but there is a ferocity and a verve to this project which does suggest that it is a new lease of life. This is obvious from the outset as opening track 'Black Flag' - obviously named after the hardcore punk originators - kicks into life with a grungy bass riff underpinning a deceptively catchy tune. It doesn't sound much like Ginn and co, but is instead reminiscent of early PJ Harvey, an influence that also looms large on a couple of other tunes here, such as the ominous 'Hard to Please' and the sassy, sweary 'Mr Hyde'.

'If You're Legal' is in a similar vein but it also reminds us that Du Blonde still has a quirky side to her music, as this track borrows lyrics from the standard 'Knees Up Mother Brown', and even ends with a mutilated sample of that old song.

It's not all noise and abrasion though, and many of the most impressive aspects of Du Blonde are found in the sheer musical variety on offer. Produced by Bad Seed Jim Sclavonious, the album switches between grunge power trio, epic pop songs and subtle piano tunes whilst still managing to sound like a coherent piece of work.

'Mind is on My Mind' has an ambitious opening, with a male chorus and muted trumpet, and turns into a fairly complex song even before the dramatic mid-song cameo from Samuel T Herring of Future Islands. The manic 'Chips To Go' sees her almost duetting with herself, with one voice staying close to the guitar melody, the other bellowing at the top of her lungs.

There are plenty of gentler moments too though. 'Hunter' and 'Raw Honey' are fairly conventional pop songs, with the former featuring some great vocal work, right down to the way the backing vocals have been arranged, and 'Young Entertainment' has an epic feel but still has a pop song at its heart.

'After the Show' has an old-fashioned arrangement, and with that lead piano and backing vocal chorus line, it could be from a musical. The lyrics touch on the subject of insecurity, a theme which recurs throughout the album. For instance, "Isn't it wild when we come face to face with the love of our lives and we don't have a damn thing to say," is one of the memorable lines from the album closer 'Isn't it Wild'. The track begins with a recording of an older person discussing relationships, and the distant telephonic vocal effect on Beth's vocal gives the song an eerie gravitas and wisdom.

This is music full of heart and imagination and it is well worth investigating, even though some long standing fans of hers may be puzzled at first. Beth Jeans Houghton is alive and well and her new identity as Du Blonde is sure to widen her audience and broaden her appeal.

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