Belladonna - Hey Weirdo!
Steven Morgan 05/10/2009
"V-I-V-A Love" kicks the album off in an accent so far removed from the Darlington that homes this two piece that you'd be forgiven for thinking it was Darlington, South Carolina. "Hey Weirdo!" is Belladonna's debut album incorporating sassy vocal harmonies, pounding drums and synth flourishes over omnipresent distorted bass lines.
There's nothing on this album that's going to change the face of music forever, but rather a collection of songs aimed at dance floors and those who choose to stomp their fist in time with waving their fists in the air. Even amongst these basic song structures, it's when the band strip things back to their most simple that they shine brightest. Debut single "Don't Be Fooled By The Romance" is a simple, anthemic stomper with such a call-to-arms repeated vocal hook that shows a confidence in the song writing to know when enough is enough. This is a two piece with more in common with the snappy big riffs of The White Stripes than the chaotic disco of DFA 1979.
Unfortunately, this distinct, defined sound does somehow manage to outstay its welcome over the course of the entire LP. You can't help but feel that all the strongest songs were put at the beginning of the album, with the latter half revealing the limitations in the sound. Whereas the triplet of Don't Be Fooled By The Romance / My Law / We Are Your Diversity highlight an elegant control of their craft with each easily strong enough to be a single, the closing trio Battle / Peaches & Cream / Love Dealer show little progression in sound, but at the expense of the simple joys of the songs. The problem with having such a simple, straightforward sound is that when it works, it's easy to talk about their maturity and restraint, but when it doesn't, there's very little to hide behind.
Vocally you get too used to the sassily spoken verses contradicted to the tunefully melodic choruses. The production doesn't help either, with liberal helpings of reverb on the vocals from start to finish and often dated synth sounds infrequently used since Faith No More's heyday, you get the feeling these songs could have sounded a lot punchier with a drier sound.
This is an easy album to enjoy if you don't read between the lines too much, and you get the feeling that's how it was supposed to be enjoyed. There are plenty of moments that are immediate from the very first listen, and even the weaker moments are still danceable and stick in your head. The first six songs would have worked great as an introductory EP to their sound, but it's never a good sign when a collection of songs barely longer than 35 minutes feels as though it outstays its welcome.