Blonde Redhead
23


4.0
excellent

Review

by Tyler Fisher EMERITUS
April 15th, 2007 | 24 replies


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: 23 is huge. Take that any way you want, because it applies.

The mix of cultural backgrounds that the members of Blonde Redhead provide surely influences their sound. How much more unlikely does it get than two Italian twins who actually grew up in Canada and a Japanese girl who relocated to the US for study purposes meeting each other and forming a band in New York? From there, they took influence from no wave bands and picked up Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley to do their producing. The press generally ignored them, but they picked up a reputation as the next Sonic Youth. That was in 1993. Fourteen years later, Blonde Redhead feels they have enough experience to do everything themselves, including the production work with their latest album, 23. The album has nothing to do with the Jim Carrey movie of the same name, but they persisted on keeping the same name for the album as lead singer Kazu Makino holds that 23 is her lucky number.

That luck transferred over to the music of the album, as 23 is a triumph of layering melodies and brilliant songwriting. Taking the production into their own hands, Blonde Redhead’s 23 brings a sloppier style to their music rather than shimmering, clean cuts. Like pulling taffy, every note flows into the next, with no breaks in the sound. The album is so deep that it is almost impossible to get to the basis of each song. Much in the vein of shoegaze like My Bloody Valentine, the vocals simply integrate themselves into the music instead of taking precedence over the instrumentals. Unlike My Bloody Valentine, however, the band provides energetic drums and basslines to accompany the rich clean guitars and droning keyboards. Remarkably, with the exception of one song with French horn, the album only consists keyboards, guitars, bass, drums, and vocals to create an album with such a full sound.

23 is relentless, without a poor song on it. A straight 45 minutes of excellence, the first few listens through the album almost overwhelm the listener, there is so much to listen for and enjoy. The album’s title track opens the album with haunting, spacey piano strikes. As drums, bass, and textural chords come in and almost completely drown out the original piano, 23 begins and never lets go. Makino’s haunting vocals soar over the pulsating band behind her, but her melodies are simply the melody, not the primary focus. Lyrically, Makino sings rather mediocre lyrics, but it does not matter, the music and her accent drown out her words. Spring and by Summer Fall, placed in the middle album, further pushes the boundaries of the band’s textural experiments and big, ambiguous sound. Here, Amedeo Pace takes the microphone and provides a different tone for the group, his vocals more aggressive than his female counterpart’s. Musically, legato guitar strumming and sweeping textural keyboard fading in and out provide a wall of sound that stays constant throughout the entire song and the album.

Despite the texture and ambiguity, Blonde Redhead has nothing to hide in their songs. The concrete bottom of the songs, their chord structure and rhythmic articulation, are just as fantastic as the overall product. My Impure Hair, the album closer, is as close to a stripped down song as 23 possesses. It features acoustic guitar and tranquil vocals from Makino, but ambient noise and keyboard drones accent the song and add nuances that make the song sustainable for nearly five minutes. The chord progression becomes much more apparent on the song, and it proves the band’s talent in pure songwriting. Being able to hear her vocals better on the simpler song, Makino improves her lyrics and sings about losing her virginity and becoming impure because of it. Where My Impure Hair’s instrumentation makes it easy to find the basis of the song, SW makes it more difficult. Instead of great chord progressions, SW remains rather monotonous, sitting on the same chord for a while. Pace’s vocal melodies and the rhythmic intricacy of the song make it one of the standouts on the album. The song moves more in the middle when a synth brass solo gives a break from the two main themes in the song. Blonde Redhead have many ways of composing songs and at the bottom of the album, 23 has great variety.

However, one of the bad effects of such a large, full sound is the fact that it just becomes repetitive after a while. Much like Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible, there is no repose from the huge sound, not until the final track. 23 has a lack of contrast, and that is really its only flaw. The album, despite its ever-flowing style, feels together and cohesive. Blonde Redhead’s first attempt at producing their own album proves they still need work in that respect, but their songwriting overshadows their loud production style. Overall, 23 is the most consistent album of 2007 thus far.

Recommended Tracks:
23
SW
Spring and by Summer Fall
My Impure Hair



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Comments:Add a Comment 
The Jungler
April 15th 2007


4827 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Damn, I started one for this too.

Good review, but we disagree slightly. This is somewhere between a 3 and a 3.5 for me, it starts out good but gets pretty bland towards the end. I also really miss the female/male vocal aspect, Amadeo doesn't sing much on this at all. Misery is a Butterfly is much better than this, it's just way darker, and more original. This Message Edited On 04.15.07

BringHomeTheBacon
April 15th 2007


248 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good review. Really solid album, but as The Jungler said, it drags on a bit towards the end. I love the vocals throughout the album.

La Revolucion
April 15th 2007


1060 Comments


Great, great album. "Spring And By Summer Fall" is one of my songs of the year so far.

Kaleid
April 15th 2007


711 Comments


This seems rather unusual, although the lack of contrast you describe kind of puts me off a little. I'll check it out though; besides, I just want to say I own that cover art
Very easy to read

AlienEater
April 16th 2007


716 Comments


Is Misery is a Butterfly the best place to start with these guys?

ValiumMan
April 16th 2007


493 Comments


The review was fairly well executed but I dunno whether it really tells me what the band sounds like. I kinda understand it as mellow indie rock with an "experimental" edge, but I can't precisely tell, cos stuff like "textural" and "huge sound" can mean anything, really.
Also, you repeat words a lot. For instance, you use various forms of the word "texture" a little too often. And why do you repeat the band name like 2 times in each paragraph? Find some synonyms and it's great. This way, it's just mediocre.This Message Edited On 04.16.07

FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
April 16th 2007


2806 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks a lot for the criticism, I appreciate it. The constant mentioning of the band name isn't something I normally do. I'll work on describing the sound more in this review, I thought the second paragraph gave the overall sound pretty well but it's good to hear an outside perspective.

samthebassman
April 20th 2007


2164 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Iam keen to hear this, Iam not keen on their other work though.

samthebassman
April 20th 2007


2164 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Wow, excellent album, their best by far!

Slaapkamers
April 20th 2007


596 Comments


Good album, but not nearly as good as the two preceding it.

Stalusk
April 22nd 2007


90 Comments


I know nothing of this group, but the first half of the album is really good.

RandyfromPennywise
June 19th 2007


752 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Gets better with each listen. A really, really good album. I love the ambient feel in some of the songs, and like you said in the review, the 'layered melodies' are superb. Thanks to the two reviewers for introducing me to this.

Spare
July 9th 2008


5306 Comments


I heard the title track on the radio and have been trying to track it down ever since.

Done.

Digging: Best Witches - Wishes

BallsToTheWall
July 11th 2008


44360 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is really cool. Digging The Dress pretty good.

Digging: Pharmakon - Abandon

foreverendeared
July 11th 2008


14678 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

glad to see you like this balls

BallsToTheWall
July 11th 2008


44360 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Definetly, this is great stuff. Need to hear more from this area.

Shadowskos
October 7th 2008


352 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Vocals are great on this album.

CelestialDust
July 23rd 2009


3155 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i'm liking the title track off of this so i might check it out

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
July 23rd 2009


3768 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Do it, this is a stunning album.

Digging: Interpol - El Pintor

CelestialDust
July 28th 2009


3155 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

really like "the dress"



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