Box Of Secrets, the debut album from Brighton's Blood Red Shoes, was solid enough, but here and there you felt like Laura-Mary Carter and Steven Ansell were chasing a zeitgeist, pulling dance-punk moves because it was the in thing rather than because they, y'know, really felt it.
Not so with its follow-up, Fire Like This. Recorded on analogue equipment with minimal overdubs - a nod, perhaps, to the working methods of Steve Albini, producer of Nirvana's 1993 swansong In Utero, which Ansell has cited as a touchstone - this is a raw, unfussy rock record that forsakes gloss or studio tricks for instinct and urgency.
The analogue recording, as it happens, does a lot for Blood Red Shoes. Two-piece bands can sometimes feel a bit skinny - remember, they invented the bass guitar for a reason - but the likes of Don't Ask and It Is Happening Again see Laura-Mary's guitar invested with a surprising heft. Technically, too, Steven has picked up some tricks, his drumming hard-hitting but complex and creative enough to keep the songs hurtling along at a decent clip.
More surprisingly perhaps, for a record that trumpets its down-to-brass-tacks appeal, there is an impressive variety. Of course, there are anthems - see Keeping It Close and the excellent Count Me Out, which deploys quiet-loud dynamics like a fistful of tossed firecrackers. But there's also Colours Fade, a Sonic Youth-tinged squall of grizzly discord and cracked snare that sprawls out to an epic seven minutes. And special mention to Laura-Mary's When We Wake, a beautifully sung reflection on mortality that forsakes big rock moves for quiet choruses and raw feeling.