When Boise three-piece Blood Lemon — singer/guitarist Lisa Simpson (Finn Riggins, Treefort Music Fest), singer/bassist Melanie Radford (Built to Spill, Marshall Poole) and percussionist Lindsey Lloyd (Tambalka) — formed, in 2018, out of a medley of mutual admiration, a cover band called Mostly Muff and a unanimous love of Kim Deal and 90s Riot Grrrl music, they had no idea they’d be writing a perfect soundtrack to kick off 2021. What they did know was that they were eager to play music with their fellow women; they wanted a sound informed by 90s stalwarts like Pixies, Hole and The Breeders; and they were eager to get more political.
The resulting record, Blood Lemon’s self-titled debut, is a flinty 40-minute affair that tackles subjects like the inner journey of one song’s narrator toward becoming a whistleblower (“Whistleblower”) and running a toxic person out of town (“Burned”) with equal clarity and musical chops. Throughout, environmental (in)action is a theme that recurs. “Leave the Gaslight On” was inspired by Greta Thunberg’s speech at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit and the political and economic realities (i.e. capitalism) that have led America not to take it seriously. And “Black-Capped Cry” — a deft, heavy track that includes a bass riff inspired by the call of the black-capped chickadee — skewers both the lifestyle of limitless consumption and white colonialism. That tightness of focus in songwriting is well matched by production from Z.V. House of Boise’s Rabbitbrush Audio, a collaborator whose understanding of genre and ear for sonic layering burnished the band’s post-Riot Grrrl sound.
All three of Blood Lemon’s members are classically trained musicians, with decades of experience between them — so yeah, they’ve been around a while. And as they live and work within Boise’s scene, which is re-energizing while also responding to the lessons of #MeToo, they take pride in the representation they embody. “It’s important that music not only be about The Youth,” Lisa says. And Mel talks glowingly of first seeing The Breeders live, “not caring about anything onstage other than having fun — not being cute, not showmanship, nothin’.”
Listening to the record, it’s clear the ladies of Blood Lemon have brought that same ethos to writing and recording their debut. Their emphasis on reveling in each others’ company while bringing A-level musicianship is the perfect counterweight to the record’s headier themes. They seriously shred through tracks like “Master Manipulator” — which the band mapped on a whiteboard while recording to make sure they didn’t forget any of the collection of Mel’s riffs the song is constructed from — without ever sinking into self-seriousness. If you, too, find yourself ready to get political, you couldn’t ask for a more apt soundtrack than Blood Lemon’s cathartic good time.
– Rachel Bailey