19 April 2007

Blonde Redhead / 23 / 4AD [2007]

Blonde Redhead: WSN REVIEW
Choice cuts:
"Dr. Strangeluv," "Spring and by Summer Fall," "Heroine"

Avant-garde Blonde Redhead has retained its relevance for almost 15 years. By delicately shifting each album's dynamics, the band's canon is inarguably diverse, with the bass-driven "Fake Can Be Just as Good" and the synth-heavy "Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons." Blonde Redhead's latest effort, "23," takes the dreamy, orchestral route, with lush atmospherics and dense production.

Lead vocalist Kazu Makino is the band's linchpin. Her high-pitched, ghostly voice is layered for effect and weaves in and out of each song's thick noise. Like a subdued Björk, she guides the album's strongest tracks, including the epic "23," the rhythmic march of "Heroine" and the band's most accessible track to date, "Dr. Strangeluv." Makino's vocals are no longer abrasive and she rides a gentler melody, integrating soaring keyboards, chimes and cowbell. "Silently" sounds like it could be a rather straightforward Cranberries track from 1994, while Makino's husband, Amaedo Pace, assumes vocal duties for both "SW" and "Publisher," channeling Radiohead with startling accuracy.

The band's greatest strength is its malleability, playing chameleon to an array of influences including noise-rock, shoegaze, no-wave and psychedelia. While Blonde Redhead may never escape Sonic Youth comparisons, "23" exemplifies natural progression and is an acceptable addition to the band's increasingly grandiose back catalog.

- Joseph Coscarelli

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