Make Believe Friends 2023
Californian swagger to have classic rock aficionados wag their tongues about solidifies on a female-fronted collective’s debut album.
It’s not important at which point LUNDEN REIGN merged with HEART OF BLONDIE to become this ensemble; what’s important is that what emerged as a result of guitarist Laura Espinoza and singer Mindy Milburn joining forces in MAKE BELIEVE FRIENDS doesn’t bear much resemblance to what either of their parent bands play. There’s an exception, of course, the fiercely vibrant and effervescent, if reverently faithful, cover of “Rapture” blending prog metal of the former group and new wave of the latter, while the eight original numbers the ladies wrote for their first joint effort are infectious enough to factor out the notions of style in favor of substance. And the substance the record’s dripping with is sweet ‘n’ spicy in equal measure.
From the looming, alt. rock-relentless heartbreak of “Intentions” to the ultimate piano-driven warmth of “Act Of Love” and at all the points between, the musicians’ vigor is enviable, especially when the groovy “Somewhere There Forever” finds Dale Bozzio pitching in her trademark sort of creepy vim, the Eastern-flavored “Scream” offers a deep-cutting despair, or the almost-orchestral “Haunt Me” unfolds spectral synthesizers and hard-hitting six-string riffs. It’s not surprising, given the stellar involvement of producer Ed Stasium, bassist Phil Soussan and keyboard player Michael Bluestein, yet though “The Truth” pushes pure pop pulse to the fore, “Thank The Academy” bubbles with sarcasm, and the faux-symphonic, acoustically tinctured “Follow Me To The Sun” bares Mindy and Laura’s wondrous balladry for the listener to see and admire.
To see and feel one has new friends in them – not imaginary but tangibly real.