Monday 29 August 2011

Joy In Misery: Blonde Redhead's '23'

God, I hate it when someone dismisses music as being "too depressing". How does the presence of a particularly strong emotion make it worse? Surely, you'd imagine, it'd be far preferable to dull, bland stuff with no passion behind it? Sadly not everyone agrees, as a quick listen to XFM will prove.

Anyway, as depressing rock goes, Blonde Redhead are experts in both departments - with fifteen years under their belts, they know exactly how to put together a melancholy, guitar-driven track. Admittedly I've been unaware of them until excellent mp3 blog ThisBonusTrack recently posted a few tracks, but after just a couple of listens I knew I had no choice but to download their 2007 album 23.

Also: WTF is up with this cover?
The best was to describe 23 would be as "Hail To The Thief Part Two". It shares with Radiohead's sixth album not only the bleakest of tones, but also a heavy empathsis on clean guitar and a little bit of eerie electronic squiggles here and there. Not to mention the album's title track sounding a helluva lot like 'Where I End And You Begin' (which can only be a good thing, really).

This isn't just a big Radiohead tribute act, however. Lead singer Kazu Makino has a distinctive soft falsetto that perfectly complements the dreamy guitars (and may be familiar to those who have heard the song 'Sweetie & Shag' off the latest Battles album). Backed by the strong guitars and enegetic drumming of twin brothers Simone and Amedeo Pace, it succeeds in the rare achievement of sounding both dainty and muscular.

There are weak moments, of course. At some points in the album, the glossy production (contributed by Alan Moulder, a veteran of depressing alternative rock after working with Nine Inch Nails, My Bloody Valentine and Smashing Pumpkins) threatens to swallow the songs it's supposed to be supporting - the cheesy robot-voice opening to 'Heroine' very nearly spoils one of the most delicately-written tracks on the album.

I've yet to check out much else by the band yet, but with eight albums under their belts, there's plenty to look into (if anyone can recommend any other good albums, please leave a comment!). That is, of course, as long as you can deal with feeling pretty miserable afterwards.

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