Review Summary: Multi-national indie rockers strike paydirt with their 7th album - a remarkable, beautiful dose of neo-shoegaze.
Blonde Redhead belong to a lineage that also includes Saetia, Guillemots, Hadouken, and The Arctic Monkeys. By this I mean, they're a band that I avoided for ages because of the kind of people who rave about them (be it people I know, the NME, or certain famous people). Yet, they're also a band, like the others mentioned, that I eventually checked out and loved. In all honesty, what I expected was nothing like this - everybody I know who talked about this band was a hardcore scene kid (I loathe the phrase, but you get the picture). Now, if somebody had bothered to tell me, 'here's a band that used to sound a lot like Sonic Youth, but now pitches themselves somewhere between Interpol and My Bloody Valentine....'
Certainly, this album starts excellently. "23" is a brilliant slice of neo-shoegaze, good enough to have been on Loveless
(ya, srsly!). "Dr. Strangeluv" and "The Dress" are a little more straightforward, but equally impressive and beautiful. "SW", meanwhile, moves the band musically into a territory that reminds me of The Twilight Singers circa Blackberry Belle
, and the vocals sound a bit like Scott Matthews. There's even a brass/horn fanfare halfway in. What's not to love here? So far, it's four tracks of easily listenable, gorgeously textured indie rock with great melodies.
Now, there are dozens (actually, probably hundreds) of albums that get to this point and get me wishing that they'll keep it up.....and then they start sliding in quality. 23
doesn't. "Spring and by Summer Fall" actually makes me wonder if I'm over-rating what's gone on so far, because so few albums get this far with me getting this much enjoyment from every track. "Silently" restores my faith - it's slightly more pared-down, in that there's less going on musically, but that melody is absolutely undeniable. The remaining four tracks are again very, very good - "My Impure Hair" deserves a mention for being the only song so far that sounds easy to replicate live, featuring as it does a prominent acoustic guitar and cleaner, more basic electric guitar line. Yet, the swirls and effects remain, elevating it - it reminds me a little of Slowdive's finest moment, "Dagger", which was also a pared-down, more acoustic track at the end of a dense shoegaze-inspired album, although, if I'm being honest, "Dagger" is the better song.
I can honestly say that I'm shocked by just how good, and particularly how consistent, this album is. I'm tempted to make more slightly retarded comparisons to Loveless
, and that, really, should tell you enough about how great this music is. It's lush, deep, produced and executed to near-perfection, and the songs are just plain beautiful. It manages to be as enigmatic as something like Espers, without sacrificing the accessibility it so effortlessly displays. To top it off, there's not a bad track in sight. Stalling it on a rating of 4 does seem a little harsh, but it should be noted that if I ranked every album I'd rated a 4, this would probably make the top 10. Speaking of top 10 lists, if this isn't in my top 10 of 2007 come the end of the year, I'll be shocked - in what's been a surprisingly good year so far, this still manages to shine through. Definitely recommended.