JohnnyoftheWell
Staff

Reviews 370
Soundoffs 76
News Articles 102
Band Edits + Tags 1,313
Album Edits 673

Album Ratings 4462
Objectivity 75%

Last Active 01-01-70 12:00 am
Joined 01-01-70

Review Comments 60,493

 Lists
05.17.24 GHOST folk 05.11.24 what's good sputnik
05.10.24 Aquemini ranked04.25.24 REC me glitch/downtempo/IDM
04.16.24 All Blonde Redhead songs RANKED 03.28.24 OED Japanese imports RANKED (Q1 2024)
03.22.24 Sputnik's Sacred Cows03.14.24 POP ALIGNMENT
03.09.24 Discogs that peak on song #103.07.24 new staff + contribs RANKED
03.03.24 MARCH of JAZŽŻ 02.16.24 G L I T C H genre tag
02.01.24 FEBRUARY of ambi2ent (REC me) 01.01.24 well_2023: "YES" albums (2/2)
12.31.23 well_2023: "NO" albums (1/2)12.27.23 (be)rate my LP 'collection'
12.03.23 2023 BNM: cringedex 12.01.23 New users :: REVIEWED
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All Blonde Redhead songs RANKED

LP songs only (+ 3 O'Clock EP because why not), lfg. Kazu Makino (vox+stuff), Amedeo Pace (vox+stuff) and Simone Pace (percussion) are three people who make music some of it is noisy some of it is dreamy most of it is good some of it is great their discography gets better the more you hear of it let's go.
103Blonde Redhead
Barragan


Cat on Tin Roof

Devastating nothingburger of a track, even by Barragan's standards: plods tunelessly on and on, only a couple of stray vocalises from Kazu keep this from complete dead air. The memo you'll be getting throughout the next 15-ish entries is that Blonde Redhead a great band who made one tedious baroque chore of a bad fucking album. It is this one. Everything the band had spent years honing re. songwriting, sharp motifs, cohesive, fat-free arrangements, killer vocal hooks and distinctive inflections seemed have gone straight out the window (though they later regained these on 3 O'Clock and Sit Down For Dinner, fuck be praised). This is its worst song! Avoid!
102Blonde Redhead
Barragan


Seven Two

Devastating non-event of a closer that hits finally as its album seemed to have got its shit together. Good riddance.
101Blonde Redhead
Barragan


Barragan

Forgettable acoustic doodle at the start of a royal stinker. Relatively harmless considering the duds below.
100Blonde Redhead
Barragan


The One I Love

The harpsichord arps that fuel this one are pretty melodically striking by Barragan standards, although still nothing you won't hear in a music class for 7 y/os. Redeemable Kazu chorus, forgettable track overall.
99Blonde Redhead
Barragan


No More Honey

A lot of shape to this one by Barragan standards, probably entirely down to the noisy guitars that ooze in and out to support the chorus -- sometimes all it takes is a little contrast. It's grating, but I feel this is wilfully so and *almost* enjoy the personality it brings to the table: Kazu's refrain is listless enough that she takes the distortion in her stride. Would be the worst song on almost any other album, but I guess stands as a minor highlight?
98Blonde Redhead
Barragan


Lady M

Though not at all the 'worst' song on Barragan, "Lady M" is perhaps the most representative of how thoroughly the album failed to come together -- there is something here! Kazu's half-out-the-door portrait of the title persona has substance to it and is backed by a engaging core refrain ("When you dance, she dances"), the song's modulated guitars and eerie synth chords make for a striking range of tones towards her, and Simone's broken shuffle-waltz sounds like no other groove in their discography. None of these elements sit well alongside one another though -- everything ear-catching here seems to cancel itself out, and the song plods its way from had-potential to firm-nope. Unfortunate track.
97Blonde Redhead
Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons


Ballad Of Lemons

BLOOP BLOOP BLOOP BLOOP BLOOP BLOOP BLOO BLOO BLOOB hurrhurrhurr this isn't a song, but I do appreciate how citric those synth tones sound? Enjoyably goofy annoying as all hell instrumental, this is their "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots II" I will never not skip it *but* I did enjoy how much attention this list forced me to pay to it?
96Blonde Redhead
In an Expression of the Inexpressible


Justin Joyous

Look, I love clanging guitar dissonance as much as the next guy, but this final middle finger at the end of the band's most prickly record is too dull to warrant any measure of the grating winddown it enforces. This is the kinda shit nu-Swans fans kid themselves into thinking that they worship until they accidentally come across it devoid of any pretentious airs, graces or overlong reverberations.
95Blonde Redhead
Barragan


Defeatist Anthem (Harry & I)

The first half of this composite freakshow is a majestic delight that sees Kazu rise a dizzy set of string arps and land would would easily be Barragan's second-strongest track (and a plausible foreshadowing of the sound the band focused on for Sit Down For Dinner)...

...but pivoting into an utterly useless 3-minute folktronica car-crash coda really does force my hand here. Ffs.
94Blonde Redhead
La Mia Vita Violenta


Young Neil

"Young Neil" is an incomprehensible set of disconcerting nothings whispered for all of one minute over vaguely alternative muted guitar strummings that Beck might have noodled in between daydreams (not a compliment), and uh yep it's still preferable to over 50% of the tracks on Barragan.
93Blonde Redhead
Barragan


Dripping

A midtempo synthpop slicker worthy of modern-era Tame Impala (not a compliment) -- could anything be more incongruous to Barragan's flow or palette? "Dripping" starts decently and runs out of steam as it goes on, but Amedeo carries the track decently and its infectious as all shit beat immediately launches it into the album's higher reaches.
92Blonde Redhead
Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons


Equally Damaged

It is 40 seconds of eerie, hype-raising synthpulse! I will never listen to it outside of the context of "In Particular" (which fwiw I probably should have ranked it as a pair with)! It is fine! It can go no higher!
91Blonde Redhead
Blonde Redhead


Sciuri Sciura

The wall of skronks that kicks in on this 1:38 is as solid a tribute to Sonic Youth as any, but other than that, this one doesn't sound enough like anything to stand as either a worthy rip-off or a plausible blueprint for the Blonde Redhead Experience -- and for the self-titled record, that's a pretty hecking dire criticism for reasons that will become very obvious in due course. The title refrain is also annoying after the first 3-4 repetitions.
90Blonde Redhead
Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons


Mother

Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons's increasingly demented closing suite culminates with an unintelligible noise rock howler that I'd probably like a whole lot more if the mix wasn't mud and plastic mixed at all the wrong proportions. Kazu and Simone go off here, but this brand of chaos is way above the call and sounds like something that would carry far better live.
89Blonde Redhead
Barragan


Mine to Be Had

Barragan's 9-minute epic just about holds its weight, even if it has no real business overstaying the 6-minute mark. The song's opening momentum cruises along with enough momentum to leave the record's entire first half the other side of the horizon, and from then on we have the pleasure of hearing the same just-above-average Amedeo verse several hundred times in a row, underpinned with a dash of feedback. Sometimes all it takes is a simple winner.
88Blonde Redhead
Blonde Redhead


Snippet

Band walks into studio, enacts imitation of Neurosis-cum-Sonic-Youth, plays a melody you have heard before, records no vocals, uses instrumental as respectable piece of filler on their debut, it is not bad, your band could do this too, okay.
87Blonde Redhead
La Mia Vita Violenta


Down Under

Now that we've got all but one Barragan tracks out of the way, the spotlight can finally turn to my second least favourite Blonde Redhead album, the chief scapegoat for which sure is pretty (uhhhhurr) down under the rest of this list! La Mia Vita Violenta isn't a bad record or even particularly close to one, but it does suffer from homogeneous as shit pacing, an absence of memorable vocal parts (with a small handful of notable exceptions), overemphatic focus on uninteresting guitar interplay, and the plainest mix in the BR discography. "Down Under" is all of those things + I hate the cold opening and (having accused the album of homogenous pacing lol) how its frequent dynamic shifts jettison momentum. Kazu sounds alright here though, and I can dig the finish
86Blonde Redhead
In an Expression of the Inexpressible


Speed X Distance = Time

Ugggh I want to put this one higher and lower at the same time? It's unlistenable! What an off-putting melody! What a wash of dissonant chords and (later on) Japanese folk scale bullshit! Maybe Kazu's most grating vocal performance ever, some cursed lullaby antics all over this? But make it through the first 3 seconds (challenge!), and the way the band develops all of this is unique and fascinating within and maybe without their discography -- lots of melodic intricacies here, drums are killer and we get a cute pinch of flute to cushion those zillion horrible fragmented contours.

tl;dr the instrumental parts of this are genuinely captivating, its melodic progressions are quite complex, and I respect what it shoots for, but those Kazu verses will never not be a reflex red-button moment.
85Blonde Redhead
La Mia Vita Violenta


I Am There While You Choke On Me

...in which Kazu graduates from convincing Kim Gordon worship to passable PJ Harvey worship (+ one admittedly world-beating screech). This one's fun bluesy stomp can't save it from the impression of a half-baked skit
84Blonde Redhead
Penny Sparkle


Here Sometimes

Probably the first (*stutters*) controversial pick of the list, "Here Sometimes" for me is the blandest and most boring track from an album I largely consider unfairly maligned for those qualities. It is also the most popular track on the record, its opener, and (afaik) the only one the band still play live -- dammit. The story here is that Penny Sparkle leans hard into a wilfully frigid take on dream pop that cut the vast majority of their indie-rawk DNA out of 23's blueprint and understandably filtered the shit out of much of their fanbase. Frigidity is excellent! It sounds brittle and washed out and anxious and vulnerable, and many other qualities that this band have always taken very much in their stride. "Here Sometimes", by contrast, is a relatively warm compromise that ends up tepid and plain and *skipped* for me. Next.
83Blonde Redhead
Sit Down for Dinner


I Thought You Should Know

For all the many nice things I'll have to say about Sit Down for Dinner later on, there is no getting around the fact that "I Thought You Should Know" is a colossal snoozer that lands like a nondescript cushion in sequence and an active traipse outside of it. It clears the air before the album's stellar final run, but I think this is the first time I've ever made it to the end outside of that context. Painfully slow tempo, forgettable vocal melodies on an album otherwise packed with winners, lengthy runtime, and very little in the way of development despite the core idea very much waving for it? Hmmm.
82Blonde Redhead
La Mia Vita Violenta


10 Feet High

I go back and forth on whether this is a minor banger or moderate clunker, but it sure do be a major part of the reason that the backend of La Mia Vita blurs like hell to me. Peaks in the first 10 seconds - it's mostly a trundle from thereon out.
81Blonde Redhead
Penny Sparkle


Will There Be Stars

One thing I forgot to add for Penny Sparkle is that all of its duds fall in the opening half, and of these I cannot think of anything easier to finger point than the OneRepublic bullshit Amedeo twists his voice into for this one's verses. It gets a few points over "Here Sometimes" because I dig the way he lifts at the end of the chorus, but this style of kitsch/moody synthpop is a big no otherwise.
80Blonde Redhead
3 O'Clock


Give Give

Lots of things to love about this individually: the dusky chamber palette that plays so well across 3 O'Clock as a whole, the strength of Amedeo's refrain, the inevitable sense of winddown that permeates the whole thing and makes it a respectable closer, that nifty percussion (hardly a traditional kit sound in earshot here), but for whatever reason "Give Give" has always dragged its feet for me -- it feels set up to flow as a long sigh, but somehow ends up in the treacle.
79Blonde Redhead
Blonde Redhead


I Don't Want U

For a band (rightfully) pigeonholed as a straight Sonic Youth ripoff on their self-titled debut, it's honestly kinda cool that Blonde Redhead kicked things off with a hazy krautrock track packed with incongruous yelps, toe-tipping motoriks, groovy basslines and abrupt changes of pace. None of it really ties together, but neither does it fall apart? An album is started, all is okay, the rest is history.
78Blonde Redhead
In an Expression of the Inexpressible


This Is For Me And I Know Everyone Knows

I really don't love dropping this many songs from In an Expression... this far down the list -- that album is the boldest and most experimental thing BR ever put out, and although it'll get amply rewarded as such later on, it comes with a small handful off misfires. "This Is For Me..." is one the one hand coursing noise rock barnstorm and on the other a messy as hecked fuck mash of vocal styles that should probably land as anthemic chaos, but plays out as an unfortunate cheerleader accident in practice. Unique track and somewhat fun regardless, but not one I can earnestly put much higher.
77Blonde Redhead
Penny Sparkle


Not Getting There

...further to 81 re. kitsch flavourless half-baked synthpop tracks, I was tempted to exclude this one from the list entirely to avoid the risk of second-hand embarrassment from neekafat discovering it and inevitably making it his favourite BR track. Its upbeat pacing is appreciated this early on in Penny Sparkle, and that's about it.
76Blonde Redhead
Blonde Redhead


Girl Boy

Alright alright, *yes* this is an entirely pointless track for anyone to ever listen to outside of sequence, yes it is all but interchangeable with "Young Neil" (94) other than that it's longer and doesn't have a Scott Pilgrim title, yes it has no real business landing outside of the bottom 20, BUT I love how shyly, how cryptically it wraps up the s-t after the almighty burnout of "Swing Pool" and you are going to uh have to deal with the consequences.
75Blonde Redhead
Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons


Loved Despite Of Great Faults

The most awkward, transitional record of Blonde Redhead's career, Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons saw them put noise and dissonance largely in the point and emerge as a mercurial indie act with sinister overtones galore and the occasional sophisticated flourish. Perhaps all the more so because it's paired with one of the album's most obvious highlights, "Loved Despite Of Great Faults" shows this era at its most lopsided and strained, Amedeo struggling to match his voice to a more melodic backdrop while its shifts between straight (3/4 verses) and compound (6/8 choruses) time were a gearshift that always felt forced to me -- all the more so for the high drama this song channels, aiming to wrap up the record's first-half arc. Maybe it's too far up the list, hmmm
74Blonde Redhead
In an Expression of the Inexpressible


10

A blip-infused carnival of chromatic skronk with a neat melodic hook and background layers of guitar fuck the whole way through? This sounds far more Fugazi than Sonic Youth (as do large chunks of In an Expression... and Fake... -- hold that thought!), and would make for a killer short-length instrumental. I don't love it as the second track on the album (even a record this weird struggles to weather such an abrupt change of pace so early), and since I find that the vocal sections add relatively little to the track once they appear, but this is decently cool regardless.

Dare I say it's the first certifiable GOOD SONG on the list?
73Blonde Redhead
Misery is a Butterfly


Magic Mountain

The first of a string of spartan, Kazu-led ghost-ballads that you'll be seeing across the next few places (and also much higher up, I promise), true to the remote utopia of its subject matter "Magic Mountain" functions above all as a pause for breath at the 3/4 mark in Misery...'s relentlessly claustrophobic tracklist -- goodness knows it hits the spot as such and adds a fair bit to the record thematically ("I'll never make in in the flatlands"), but it's hardly the most memorable track otherwise and the album's finale combo handily eclipses it. And is this our first song from Misery... ? Not too shabby.
72Blonde Redhead
La Mia Vita Violenta


Bean

I greatly enjoy how the b-vooom b-vooom b-vooom of the main riff on this one does indeed sound like a bean (beans?!) bouncing up and down in the microwave or whatever bullshit. Kinetic bean! Really like the bass groove on this one, which is fortunate because the majority of the song sticks to it like glue. It gets somewhat lost in La Mia Vita…’s homogeneous backend, but is one of the more successful examples of the edgy noonday malaise much of the record shoots for — I think I like most of these tracks much more individually than together.
71Blonde Redhead
Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons


For The Damaged

Similar to "Magic Mountain" in that it works best in sequence and shows Kazu at her most intimate, but "For The Damaged" one is outright shivers through and through (especially considering the more clamorous levels unease in the first two songs in the Melody-suite that precede it -- for all the change of pace this offers, it might just be the most anxious song on the record). Similar to (though infinitely more palatable than) 86, this is one I respect much more than I enjoy, but those chills do flow freely.
70Blonde Redhead
23


Spring And By Summer Fall

I don't know if there's any consensus on what the worst track on Blonde Redhead's (spoilers) best (spoilers) album is, but I'm going to shoot my shot and say that it's a) this one, b) it's this one even though it starts out strong, c) it's this one because it runs out of steam but never changes place, d) it's this one because it lacks a strong chorus yet sets itself up perfectly for one, e) it's this one even though its acutely washed-out shoegaze palette is a pretty cool blend of textures and there's not very much else like it, and f) it would probably still be this one if it had the absolutely kickass drum finale they play live for it, which changes its whole shape and gives it a very necessary yeeting off the unyielding plateau it sets up for itself.

Thank you for your time.
69Blonde Redhead
Sit Down for Dinner


Via Savona

Very little to say for this one -- it's a bittersweet instrumental (Kazu is vocalising, shuddup) outro at the end of a lovely album, doesn't 'make' an impression as much as it reinforces whatever's left in your ears by the end of 'If'. Gorgeous mix of tones + very tastefully arranged, will accept arguments that this should have been higher, but it doesn't say quite enough on its on terms for me at the moment.
68Blonde Redhead
Barragan


Penultimo

The best song on Barragan by an astronomical margin and a rare glimmer of the potential this record might have had -- and even then, it cuts itself short just as it feels ready to hit a peak. The accompaniment here (get a load of that harpsichord/dulcimer unison!!) is deadly focused, and Kazu and Amedeo's verse/chorus interplay cements a really infectious vocal pattern. There's intrigue all over this thing - too bad all we get is two choruses. Give it a bridge and a nifty resolution, and we'd be sailing. Still, that any track on this album can top any track on 23 is something to be impressed by ig
67Blonde Redhead
Misery is a Butterfly


Maddening Cloud

AND SHE SAIIIIIIIID
I CAN'T FEEL MY TOES

Never sure how to feel about this one! It has a *great* chorus and not much else to it?! It's choppier and I guess a lot less oppressive than the rest of Misery is a Butterfly (as close as it comes to a moment of legacy, depending how tongue-in-cheek you consider "Doll is Mine"), which in theory makes it a pretty significant cut, but in practice pans out as a perplexing roadbump in between "Magic Mountain"'s palate cleanser and the all-important final pair? Gets a shrug and a clap from me, and lands by far the least impact of any of the album's Amedeo-led songs.
66Blonde Redhead
Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons


Melody Of Certain Three

For all this one boasts a solid chorus, it's a rare Blonde Redhead song where I feel confident saying that the rhythm guitar is easily the standout -- those riffs are as jagged as any of their noise rock tracks despite being far more palatable to the indie crowd! I enjoy how much meat this one has on its bones: it's another of Melody's oddball rockers, but unlike "Loved Despite Of Great Faults" (the most loosely comparable track in that regard), the shifts from verse to chorus feel hefty and well-earned. Good! Not Amedeo's most commanding performance by a long shot though.
65Blonde Redhead
Misery is a Butterfly


Messenger

The perfect(ish) average of all the standard Misery things: glassy keys, morose chamber rock arrangement, overtones of weariness, gorgeously strained vocal inflections, cyclical verse-centric structure -- the only major distinction is that it's Amedeo rather than Kazu her (usually the other way round on this kind of track). This has less going for it than anything comparable on the album, but it holds up decently by the sum of its parts and makes for a pretty flattering baseline.
64Blonde Redhead
Penny Sparkle


Love or Prison

This one took f o r e v e r to get into, and honestly if it weren’t sandwiched between the stellar “My Plants are Dead” and Penny Sparkle’s outstanding side-B, I doubt I would ever have gotten there (I tend to skip the opening three tracks most listens) — it's maybe the most glacial track in the whole BR discography, and the mileage you'll get from it will depend 100% on how much you jive with an understated Kazu refrain. I love how fragile, guarded and tender her work here/across most of this record is, and so all is good, could easily see this landing in some people's bottom 20 though.
63Blonde Redhead
Fake Can Be Just As Good


Water

I don't know if this a controversial placement or not, but Fake Can Be Just As Good taking until the 2/3rd mark to make an appearance should give you a sense of the consistency involved in this one -- that 8-for-8 hit ratio makes it by far the most consistent of BR's noise rock-era output, even if I find the title wears a little too true at points and have switched to marginally prefer In an Expression... for its cracked weirdo quotient. In line with that, "Water" is the most openly derivative thing on the album by a decent margin: even the great, late Vern Rumsey covering bass duties for you is no excuse to rip off Unwound's "Unauthorized Autobiography" with the note-per-note precision that the first half shoots for. It sounds hella joyless to me compared to the other bangers on this album, but the second, instrumental half is much more refined, evoking all manner of rusty, sordid, damp imagery in a way that fits this sound perfectly and elevates the song by a good 20ish places
62Blonde Redhead
3 O'Clock


Where Your Mind Wants to Go

Basically a one-song trailer for Sit Down for Dinner, albeit in even more sedentary form. Cringe rhymes and somewhat dreary pacing aside, this one finds Amedeo at his most mellow, crooning one of the band's most melodious refrains over a CHOICE beat (again, Simone does great work jettisoning his standard kit here) and a gorgeous chamber arrangement. It drags its feet a little towards the end of that long ol' runtime, but is otherwise an essential follow-up for everyone who got mileage out of Sit Down...
61Blonde Redhead
3 O'Clock


3 O'Clock

This one is basically tied with "Where Your Mind Wants to Go", and I don't really want to make a call because their strengths and failings balance each other out nicely. On the one hand, this is by far the most dynamic piece on the EP, seeing Kazu returning to the Misery... sound with a good deal more colour in her cheeks - her verses here are particularly magnetic, and the song has that sightless-movie-narration quality that accompanies so often accompanies good, simple storytelling. It also avoids overstaying its welcome, but the chorus has always felt a little cluttered to me, dragging it down considerably. Still, it's better than any track on Barragan and suggested an immediate return to form for their first release thereafter.
60Blonde Redhead
Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons


A Cure

This song is intense as all shit without ever getting conventionally heavy - it's the emotional climax of Melody's second-half suite, and for what it's worth, it starts out strong and hits the kind of chorus you feel all the way in the bottom of your stomach. The clattering percussion and oh-shiiii guitar bends here pin their vibe down to perfection, but Amedeo dishes out one of his most underrated vocal performances to claim the highlight feature. The catch? Too damn long! This thing sets its stakes up perfectly, but drags them out too far. More songwriting focus would have gone a long way here.
59Blonde Redhead
Fake Can Be Just As Good


Bipolar

"Bipolar" on paper is one of Blonde Redhead's most fuck-off no-nonsense bangers, and no ifs/buts/hows about it, that groove is the absolute business (chime-like guitar dissonance also very welcome). It went hard as hell when I caught them live (and made for a totally unexpected inclusion!), but the studio version is a little reined-in for my liking: Kazu's studio vocal is a little too waiflike for its own good, and the song's linear flow doesn't do as much as it might to spotlight the accentuations that do occur (a little more weight thrown towards the drums in the mix would have gone a long way here). Not as visceral as it might have been, but a bruiser all the same.
58Blonde Redhead
Fake Can Be Just As Good


Pier Paolo

Dramatic song! Memorable riffs! Length runtime — why? How? Feels like it should offer a lategame album climax, but gets epically upstaged by “Oh James”! Always thought this one took far too much time to go through its motions for the impact it dishes, but it still packs enough punch to warrant a couple of exclamation marks!! Not very noisy!!
57Blonde Redhead
Sit Down for Dinner


Melody Experiment

One of the bolder song titles I’ve seen in my time, which this track brings to fruition in refreshingly understated style. The verse/chorus section is more groove-fuelled than melodic for me, but Kazu puts in a good turn, and — well, hearing the band kick off and allow the melodies in question to roam free in a deliciously tasteful set of chord shifts in the second half is worth whatever reservations you may have been harbouring. This one is maybe too subtle for its own good and has been a slow grower for me, but I feel it could still go a distance. Very classy song.
56Blonde Redhead
Blonde Redhead


Without Feathers

I want to make a strong case for how underrated this one is, but feel my placement is immediately going to self-sabotage it — oh well. It’s one of the most immediate digests of the scuzzy, grotty charm that makes me such an ardent part-time defender of the self-title record: Kazu’s verses on this sound so fresh, so green compared to the later records — the noisy guitar washouts may be pushing for more grit than the band knew how to handle at this point, but you can feel them gradually finding their sound all over this. It loses shape over its final minute (Goo b-reel if I’ve ever heard it!) and was a little thin on its feet to begin with (noisy guitar in place of an actual chorus is always a gambit for a song as simplistic as this one), but I still have a huge soft spot for it and would love to have put it higher.
55Blonde Redhead
Sit Down for Dinner


Not for Me

Absolutely prime case of a song with a pre-chorus dramatically stronger than its actual chorus, but shit damn that BUT YOU RAN WITH THE FLOWERS hook is one of my favourite things I’ve ever heard Amedeo do as a vocalist. This song loses steam, but there are a few moments where it seems ready to set itself out as *the* shining example of BR’s mellow indie era.
54Blonde Redhead
Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons


For The Damaged Coda

Ranking the sole meme song from a band this guarded and earnest was *not* a task I was looking forward to!
We all know this one, like it or not, and we can probably all agree that it’s pretty damn good for what it goes for. Kazu’s vocalisations are spookier and more evocative than her vocals on the original “For the Damaged”, that piano part is impeccable menace, and, yes, watching Evil Morty throw his eyepatch away and walk off with his indistinguishable brethren is still worth the chills (the series tie-in didn’t quite get me into BR the way it did with Mazzy Star, though Melody… was my first BR album (saw it suggested somewhere for fans of Sonic Youth, but it took me two+ years to hear anything more from the band, largely as a result of the songs from it ranked lower than this)).

ANYWAY, the one single thing that this song does is great but not great enough to take it higher than this midway tossup, take it or leave it you filthy consumers.
53Blonde Redhead
La Mia Vita Violenta


Violent Life

Now this is how your write a *song* where the guitars do half the talking! Difference between tracks like “Without Feathers” and this is incredibly pronounced for two tracks on two albums that came out the same year — this one is razor-focused for every second of its runtime, and the guitar tones and interplay are impeccable without being overly flashy. The melodies are infectious and have a real edge to them, and if it’s impossible to tell whether Amedeo is carrying the song or being carried by it, the runtime is lean enough that the ambiguity hardly causes a stink. Very cool shit.
52Blonde Redhead
La Mia Vita Violenta


Harmony

Let’s say nice things about “Harmony”: I enjoy that it’s basically a post-rock build-up with an entirely incongruous sitar lead that conveniently enough kicks arse? I love the build in question (very Unwound “Abstractions”/misc. post-Slint vibes here) and how naturally it gives way to Kazu’s verse, and would probably rank it a fair bit higher if it didn’t abruptly lose its direction, fritter away all its meticulously well-earned momentum, and, uh, end? Should have been 2-3 minutes longer and packed a proper finale.
51Blonde Redhead
Blonde Redhead


Mama Cita

The lyrics on this one are utterly hysterical -

IT’S THE SMELL THAT DRIVES THEM WILD / THEY ARE *NOT* FASCINATED BY MY EYES

- but this is still a belter, and that the finale is probably the single *heaviest* moment in their discog (rare skramz aplenty from both Kazu and Amedeo). I think the band bite off a fair bit more than they can chew in this one’s stakes and intensity, and that it’s no coincidence that La Mia Vita Violenta generally reined this end of their sound in in favour of mid-tempo cruisers, but this ranks alongside “Astro Boy” for the single most violent thing they ever put to record — and on that level, it’s still respectably cohesive.
50Blonde Redhead
La Mia Vita Violenta


Jewel

Amedeo’s cold opening here is maybe the biggest OH-SHIT moment on the record (right in time for the last song!) — I still have no idea what this song is about or why it hits the way it does, but all the stakes I feel are very much lacking through this album’s second half suddenly materialise out of nowhere and hit right home. That first minute is a decisive letdown, but the changes of pace and incremental layering of abrasive contours throughout this song are impeccable — where has this mercurial relationship with actually-quite-pushy shrink been this whole time? The clean breaks give it a real edge and those grooves are up with the album’s funkiest, krauty finest (“Bean” did some worthy foreshadowing though!). Really great song, keep underrating it by association with the arid run it rounds off, but this is pretty much the perfect closer for this album and a stealthy highlight.
49Blonde Redhead
Misery is a Butterfly


Doll is Mine

IT IS TIME FOR THE CREEPY DOLL SONG, oh man I will never forget the way this hit me when I went through Misery… the first time, especially after the superlative glumness factor of tracks two and three. Amedeo does a great job of channelling the earnest obsession of the narrator-character without going too far overboard, and the nightmare feel of the song opens up a new pocket to the album’s haunting chamber palette, a theatrical complement to its more emotionally vulnerable side and no less disturbing for it. Did its initial shock value wear off a little? Uh, sure, but this ain’t no novelty song. Cannot imagine the album without it.
48Blonde Redhead
In an Expression of the Inexpressible


Futurism Vs. Passéism Part 2

A leaner runtime, a Guy Picciotto French spoken-word cameo for reasons(?), and a slinky minor-arp resolution: in theory, the sequel should outdo the original, but “Part 2” being lighter on its feet also means it packs slightly less punch. It’s a perfect complement to a song so assertive that it never truly *needed* a follow-up though, and I do love how this lands in sequence though: it picks up the pace from “Missile ++”’s dubby fake-out just perfectly.
47Blonde Redhead
In an Expression of the Inexpressible


Led Zep

Slooooooow grower, this, neatly buried in the backend of a baffling fucking album (this record took me so long to get into that it was probably a good week before I even realised there *was* a backend! Thank the midway placement of 86 for that). Kazu doesn’t really sing notes on this as much as she stirs and strains air currents with her voice, and the song’s somewhat innocuous straight-time groove and slow pacing raise a lotta question marks re. What’s It All In Aid Of, but suddenly some hero (who?) starts rattling off harmonics at around the 3:00 mark and it all clicks into place? I’m making the executive decision that this song is an atmospheric masterclass and that you won’t hear anything like it from most of the bands worth investing similar levels of patience into? Just don’t you fucking dare try to sing along.
46Blonde Redhead
La Mia Vita Violenta


(I am Taking Out My Eurotrash) I Still Get Rocks Off

Blonde Redhead trying to play a vulgar indie barnstormer is such a hilariously weird look in hindsight that I’m completely unsurprised they’ve never done anything like it since, but no amount of dubiously convincing swagger can offset the slippage this one lays down — when it kicks off, it //goes//, and hearing such an endearingly stilted take on such an orthodox song formula gives it an unexpected niche of its own. It does not suit them at all! And yet they rock it!! I STILL GET ROCKS OFF all fucking day baby.
45Blonde Redhead
Sit Down for Dinner


Before

Fuck me, this song is graceful — meticulous songwriting chops all over it, and if the initial chorus melody itself sounds a tad tired (“I don't need to see I already know / I can tell you I've seen it all before”), then Kazu’s delivery has enough flair to tide it over and the latter end (“Stop! Before you run, before you make a run, turn it upside down”) is a fair bit trickier to pin to something similar. But really, this one is all about the flow from cadence to cadence and the seamlessness of the guitar accompaniment. Beautiful stuff all round.
44Blonde Redhead
La Mia Vita Violenta


U.F.O.

uh, this is the one that just krauts out over big feedback for five and a half minutes, over the course of which next to nothing happens. there’s some cool-ass tom pounding in the final minute? it is very cool. best on the album? dunno.
43Blonde Redhead
Misery is a Butterfly


Melody

“Melody” is, uh, a bleak song about a girl who murders an unsympathetic old geezer, the details of which are left ambiguous or completely out of sight? It reads as a fragment and plays as one of the dourest tracks on Misery, and the lion’s share its appeal lies in Kazu’s supremely haunting voicings (the way she sets up her character up as illiterate and naive before leaning all the way into a childish cadence for the “Why did you kill the poor old man?” that anchors the whole song = pure chills). As a ‘song’, it’s glum and elliptical in the same way as many Misery tracks, showing off those qualties without quite standing out as the best of its kind, and I think the bulk of its mileage is to be had as part of a full spin.
42Blonde Redhead
23


Sw

Even at their noisiest, the bulk of BR’s discography has always felt far more threatened than threatening, but from its first thunderous second onwards, “Sw” is a rare track so ominous as to flip the script on that — this song follows through on the razor-thin tension and heart-in-mouth stakes set up so well on the “The Dress” with as much momentum as anyone could ask for, and I think one of the things that puts me off “Spring and by Summer Fall” is how languid it feels in bringing things down to earth, however necessary. But uh yep, this is a huge song whichever way you look at it and Amedeo does great work trumpeting the apocalypse (over some choice cryptic one-liners). Reaaaally satisfying transitions between verses and chorus too, love how fleeting the interplay there is vs. how girthy the synthbrass-fuelled bridge that crashes in midway is. Why isn’t it higher? Hmm, doesn’t hit quite as hard without “The Dress”.
41Blonde Redhead
Penny Sparkle


Everything is Wrong

Though it’s fallen down the ranks a bit in the past couple of years, I absolutely love the moment of warmth and solace this song offers in the infamously bleak backend of Penny Sparkle, and tbh in general — it hits like a warm bath at the end of a shitty day, and for all the title lyric (chorus) could just as easily be read as generalised and facile, the weariness in Kazu’s tone strips it of its hyperbole and lands it as a genuinely alleviating statement of reassurance. Not much to it as a ‘song’, and maybe it leans a little hard on its basic 3/4 swirl without offering too much in the way of development, but it articulates everything it needs to in short order and gets out before it reiterates itself too much. Very blessed piece.

And, uh, hey, that's the first Penny Sparkle song in over 20 places? Insane how wide the good/meh gulf on this one is -- and it only gets better from here.
40Blonde Redhead
Misery is a Butterfly


Falling Man

“Falling Man”, uh, fell from an initial top 20 placement! Why? It’s a razor-sharp neurotic banger with potentially the catchiest guitar line in the BR discography and a vocal performance from Amedeo so iconic it’s practically his calling card tune — and yet, something about his vocal tone doesn’t *quite* land it to the perfection that it commands in every other aspect. Also not a huge fan of the single verse/chorus/ambient haze/total-repeat songwriting schtick — this ain’t no lazydays Animal Collective bullshite! A couple of detractions then, but this one’s central idea is still a lean fucking piece of work.
39Blonde Redhead
Sit Down for Dinner


Kiss Her Kiss Her

Is this a new fan favourite? I am deciding now that it’s a new fan favourite! Absolutely textbook Kazu pop stuff all over this, just a meticulously well-conceived track from start to finish: got them dreamy verses, that dizzy SINGALONG of a chorus, that iconic, endlessly loopable post-chorus hammer-instrument dun-dun-dun (l o v e d this live, gave me a whole new appreciation for the song despite not really varying from the original). I expect and kinda hope to get a bit of flack for not putting it a bit higher, and if pressed for why would probably mumble something about it showing veteran songwriting chops without actively raising the roof (even though the chorus literally does exactly that) before defaulting on not-enough-time-to-bond — I think this one will age very well.
38Blonde Redhead
Fake Can Be Just As Good


Futurism Vs. Passéism

Oh b o y I love this stupid instrumental - it’s as close as BR ever got to a straight-up riff firestorm, and the spartan levels of overdrive on the guitar make it less contingent on ’noise’ and double down on good ol’ rock. The energy here is fantastic, bass and drums absolutely kick off and the whole band make their mark so firmly that they never really need to go beyond simple licks (though those syncopated snare patterns go the distance). I dunno. This one gets me pumped — it’s a masterclass in less-is-more compositionally, but absolutely pops off all the same. Perfect closer, relatively lengthy runtime does not show at all.
37Blonde Redhead
In an Expression of the Inexpressible


Suimasen

Can one have a peal of guitars? I fucking guess so? This prickly banger used to be my favourite on the album, and I can still hear why: the opening synth-noise section has some real stakes and poise to it, proper bird of prey circling overhead -shit right there (would love to have heard more of this, although I guess “Led Zep” came close enough), while the clamorous (can we call it a) beatdown that overtakes the rest of the song is one of the most traditionally ‘heavy’ things in the BR canon and reminds me of a lot of things about The Future of What-era Unwound. The discontinuity between the first and second halves costs it a few places, as does the abrupt ending, but both ideas absolutely pull their weight even if they feel a little undercooked individually. Underrated slammer even if it cuts itself short. Excuse you!
36Blonde Redhead
23


Top Ranking

Hurr hurr, not the top of *this* ranking! This might be the perkiest, catchiest thing on 23 (perfectly positioned between two of its sparsest tracks), but it commits the fatal sin of running out of things to say by the end of the first chorus. Being the total earworm it is, it took me literal dozens of listens before I noticed this, but having noticed exactly how much longevity the song-long developments on most other tracks on the album have had by comparison, I can’t help but feel minutely short-changed by it: there’s a reason this one never commanded that much standalone rotation despite previously sitting very high in my ranking for 23. Can’t complain too much: if there was ever a vocal hook worth resting one’s laurels on…
35Blonde Redhead
Sit Down for Dinner


Sit Down for Dinner (Parts 1 & 2)

No way am I ranking these separately — I don’t believe that anyone is listening to them that way, and the transition between the two is probably the best part of either (each would have been at least 10 places lower individually). Kazu kills it here: it’s an achingly fragile album centrepiece that puts the spotlight on each and every one of her inflections (as it should be) and brings a faltering, hesitant, anxious sense of warmth to a frigid soundscape in a way that feels quintessentially Blonde Redhead. This is one of those songs that you need to thoroughly ‘get’ this band to get, but for those on board, it’s a delicate home run.
34Blonde Redhead
Blonde Redhead


Astro Boy

“astro boi”

This song is a fucking mess and I’m not even going to try to document its structure coherently.

Why does it start with a chorus? What does the chorus do?

What brought those fucking screams out of Kazu Makino’s throat where any other band would put a normal verse?

What fucking level were the band on as a collective at around the 1:00 mark? That shit is some absolutely prime EVOL-era Sonic Youth smoke and haze and hand-in-glove Kim Gordon magick?

Why does it stop halfway and kinda restart but not really?

Does it tail off or is it just absorbed by the murk?

It’s a weird song by anyone’s standards, but feels green and earnest and unpolished in a way that the later ‘weird’ tracks on In an Expression… very much lack — this is the kind of track you will only ever hear from a fresh band, and if that makes it Blonde Redhead’s ultimate no-filter moment, then shit boi do they whip up some sorcery with it. Absolutely nightmare of a track to rank.
33Blonde Redhead
23


Dr Strangeluv

I thought of using this line for “Kiss Her Kiss Her”, but if I had to simultaneously sum up as a whole and sell Blonde Redhead to someone who had never heard them before with one song, it would have to be this one — it packs a classic Kazu vocal, 23’s trademark gauzy tones, a melancholy chord progression that would be a shoe-in for either Melody or Misery, and just enough hint of grit in that guitar tone to peek back at their earlier material, and all of it hits home. The band chemistry and momentum are what tie it together for me: it’s good by the sum of its parts, but every verse/chorus sounds better than the one before (other than that cool-as-a-morning-breeze opening couplet, which is plain peak), and *that’s* the mark of a good piece of songwriting to me for this kinda thing (also what gives it the edge on “Kiss Her Kiss Her” and much of the newer stuff — with a few exceptions, Blonde Redhead don’t have nearly as much time for song-length builds post-23/Penny Sparkl
32Blonde Redhead
Sit Down for Dinner


If

Heck, while it’s not quite in tearjerker territory, this closer-in-all-but-name has such a sense of finality to it that it would probably break me if it were just a smidge less dignified. Absolutely peak shit from Amedeo, who radiates quiet assurance like nothing else all over this (love how his voice abruptly shifted from being the band’s nasally marmite factor to a boundless source of chill on this record). I read somewhere that Sit Down for Dinner was planned as the final BR album (no idea if this is canon): honestly, I can think of few better ways to wrap the whole disco up than this + “Via Savona” as a courtesy coda. Great lyrics too.
31Blonde Redhead
Penny Sparkle


Oslo

Is "Oslo" the sexiest Blonde Redhead song? Not really what I listen to them for, and most of their conceivably sexual songs are usually just a vehicle for a more meaningful expression of intimacy/anxiety/distance/dissociation/whatever, but this one telegraphs a bold level of straight-up thirst and backs exactly the right kind of buoyant synthpop chorus to see things through -- Penny Sparkle's frosty aesthetic is just another layer of ice to be broken here, and it's a dope pairing. Bass is inspired throughout the song, thoroughly slick shit. Try it (don't)?
30Blonde Redhead
23


Heroine

Shock of all horrors, “Heroine” used to be by far my least favourite track on 23 — the subtle hooks eluded me in the company of more robust tracks like “Publisher” and “Sw”, and I probably found the vocoder-style effects at the start a little off-putting? Loooove how understated this one is now, such a simple song if you boil it down to its core motifs, but the wash of tones have perhaps the most sophisticated development on the album, evolving so smoothly that its linear structure feels anything but. Couldn’t do without it now, most of the BR songs that channel mystique and fragility always seem to lean towards some lurking sense of anxiety, but this one sets up its crystalline dream kingdom with so many spellbindingly soft touches that, just for once, we get a chance to forget the ugly fate that awaits all material things. Or something.
29Blonde Redhead
In an Expression of the Inexpressible


In An Expression Of The Inexpressible

Hahahahaha hysteria complete anomaly noise kingqueenlegend off-kilter drum racket with half the bars missing indecipherable Kazu noise for half the track Amedeo making fart guitar noises for the other half the whole thing is six minutes it is immensely iconic and entertaining, rare sense of wtfisthis levity to it, love it, won’t be anyone’s earnest favourite but dammit it deserves to be! Forget SY/Fugazi/Unwound etcetc., this shit would make the likes of US Maple blush. Love how hard this album cracks.
28Blonde Redhead
3 O'Clock


Golden Light

Strings, strings, strings, STRINGS! Bar a few understated verses from Kazu and a gorgeously delicate percussion part, this one is basically a 7-minute flex of how seamlessly Blonde Redhead can lay down an intricate chamber arrangement blissed supremely pacing. Some would say it meanders, but the ebb and flow of this one is so organic that I simply do not care! One of their best mellow tracks, really beautiful stuff and generally overlooked.
27Blonde Redhead
Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons


In Particular

Enigmatic and coy (X…XX!), yet vastly more palatable than anything in the BR canon up to that point with its slick keyboards, strong emphasis on simple melodies and revelation of a vocal performance from Kazu (can we call this indie pop?), “In Particular” ushered in the sea change that Melody of Damaged Lemons marked within their discog. Gone are the noise, the clanging guitars, the contorted beats that unpick the rest of the song single-handed, and the provocative vocal shrillness—this version of Blonde Redhead was a gift to hip bars and owners of fashionable t-shirts, and if there are a lot of loose ends and rough turnings throughout the record that showcase a still-developing grasp for the simple, substantive songwriting that this era would demand, then “In Particular” at least has more than enough elliptical charm to split the difference.
26Blonde Redhead
Fake Can Be Just As Good


Kazuality

…and in stark contrast to “Distilled” (which was originally one place below but has since overtaken it, whoops), here’s one of the most cluttered and chaotic BR noise rock tunes of the lot. This thing kicks off like it’s two minutes late to its own album and kicks up a riot tripping over itself and progressively losing its shit, until it’s pure scramble through the final couple minutes. The stop-start dynamic of this one pairs perfectly with Amedeo’s seizure-like delivery, and shit damn those walking grooves pack the perfect amount of swagger to counterbalance the tiiiir bul anc c e. +1 for a good meme title too, sad that BR stopped doing these early on in the ‘00s, iconic opener.
25Blonde Redhead
23


Silently

OH SWEET CREAAAATURE surely everyone loves “Silently”? Is this the most endearing song in the BR discog? Maybe the poppiest thing on 23, or like, any of them, there are so many cute lyrics, striking chord changes, charmingly idiosyncratic phrasings (Kazu is smiling from the tightrope across this whole thing really), and personable touches that I struggle to see how anyone wouldn’t fall for this, unless you straight-up hate her voice. Love all the tones, love how intricate it is melodically, love how the techno-esque thud-thud that Simone lays down over the *gorgeous* bridge following Kazu’s “heart is beating ta-ta ta-ta ta” is such a simple act of class. Not nearly as representative as “Dr Strangeluv” or “Kiss Her Kiss Her” as a one-track sell, but you could do far worse than throwing this around to get your pals into the band.
24Blonde Redhead
Sit Down for Dinner


Rest of Her Life

I strongly doubt anyone else would have put this as far up their list as I have, relative to the discography as a whole or just the songs on Sit Down for Dinner, but fuck me if the way the entire first half of this heartbreakingly simple, deceptively weighty song about bereavement of whatever kind sets itself up for the transparently painful delivery of the line “She walks without you” isn’t one of the most touching moments Blonde Redhead have ever landed for me. Not too much else to unpack here — yes the vocal double-tracking at the start is a bit cluttered, yes it’s got less meat on its bones than the rest of the album, but it lands the shot it shoots absolutely perfectly and makes for one of my favourite Kazu downers (despite its featherweight arrangement).
23Blonde Redhead
Fake Can Be Just As Good


Ego Maniac Kid

This one starts off as the same kind of barebones Kazu creep-out as we’ve heard countless times (well, 94/86/76/73/71), but the way she rides an absolutely *choice* guitar build to turn it into her very own “Exit Music” makes for probably her highlight performance of the whole first three records — and absolutely the most chill-inducing thing on Fake Can Be Just As Good. Absolutely gripping piece, all the more so for how she breaks off just in time to keep us all wanting more (“Bipolar” really couldn’t ask for a better set-up). Also l o v e how much traction the start/end loop get as a reprise from “Kazuality” — the first half of this record really do be a perfect noise rock fever dream.
22Blonde Redhead
Misery is a Butterfly


Misery Is A Butterfly

Gawd, it is never not raining when this song comes on. This and “Melody” are the glummest downers in the album’s first two acts for me, both perfect case-in-points of its chamber arrangements (although we get a smidge more guitar here), both spellbinding examples of the waking nightmare Kazu in particular finds herself mired in throughout the record. Those restless violin bowings and despondent keyboard progressions give off exactly the right impression: we’re dealing with bleak shit here, and this one’s five minutes feel like a loooong way to the bottom. Uncomfortably magnetic for such a theoretically unappealing premise, and a worthy representation of the rest of the record.
21Blonde Redhead
In an Expression of the Inexpressible


Distilled

Appropriate title: this is an absolutely watertight piece of songwriting that shows BR’s knack for weaving a strong hook out of dissonant melodies at its most straightforward — there’s not an ounce of fat to be found here, and the sheer fucking weightless shuffling *heft* of that beat ensures that the momentum of the whole thing is as forward-focused as it gets. Just template noise rock all over this (though I could see it being a little too straightforward for some, and perhaps it’s why it doesn’t land higher here — although its simplicity has given it the tenacity it needed to slowly climb my ranking for this album!); could easily have been a minor highlight on “Red Medicine”, but the groove feels very much emblematic of its record.
20Blonde Redhead
In an Expression of the Inexpressible


Luv Machine

“Luv Machine” is one of the most no-nonsense, get-your-fucking-bearings-on-immediately openers I’ve heard in my days, and the first time it went through my ears I felt like I was about to have a panic attack — the tempo is strictly midtempo and everything about it is mercilessly calculated (no chaos or Fake…-esque freeform noise in earshot!), so nothing here specifically invites convulsions etc., but the tension?? The horrible dissonant contours that stab-stab-stab every time someone so much as sniffs at a guitar? One of Kazu’s most chokeable vocal performances ever? The stupendously fucking cool drum part, which sounds like a tricycle whose three wheels are actively competing against one another to be the first to fall off (the Deerhoof comparisons comments make a special level of sense for this one)?

Everything about this one invites you to get your heart out of your mouth or else turn it the fuck off, and I *love* it as a bold opening statement (the only way the album could have done better would be skipping “10” and hopping straight to “Distilled” for a bullish moment of release).
19Blonde Redhead
Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons


This is Not

Gotta be honest here, I’ve read the lyrics multiple times over multiple years, listened to it more than almost anything else on Melody…, and initially wondered whether it was the easiest BR song to relate to (back when Melody… was the only album I knew from them), but I have no idea what the fuck Kazu is singing about here or how any of the following suite of songs fits together narratively. So, uh, so there (ed. never mind this one is a rare moment of naked autobiography whoops but still, I forgot this several times over). HOWEVER, this synth-led, distantly sinister heartthrob(?) of an almost-banger transcends language and storytelling and most of the other things through a) an absolute stormer of a chord progression, b) some of the catchiest vocal phrasing of the whole damn lot *that you can actually vaguely sing along to and /should/ in fact want to (ONCE - SHE - LOVED - A BOY)*, and c) further to that, some of the most strained inflections of syllables that you can just tell have never been made to fit *that* way before (A SERI ES OF MEANnn-ing_ful MOOOVEment). I dunno man. This is just a total earworm with a ton of depth and darkness packed into it, and there’s no other song quite like it.
18Blonde Redhead
Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons


Hated Because of Great Qualities

This is a fan favourite, right? Surely there’s no world in which this isn’t a fan favourite? Am I gonna have to Google it? Well. For all the fits and starts of Melody…’s songwriting, this is one point where the band (mostly) got it together and dished out one of the most momentous, haunting alt-rock—adjacent goliaths in their arsenal. The luuuurch and suspense of those guitars through the verses is looking for a bruising, and shit damn do we get one in one of the most suspenseful gut-punches of a chorus (yes, both those things — this shit demands a slow-motion filter) the gang ever set up. Oomph. If you ever need a single track to convince a pal boi that they mean business on top of all that chamber/dream shit, this one has a proven track record (hi). I’ve always been a bit iffy on whether the second chorus truly restores the momentum of the first, but with a key change and doomsday coda to follow it, one can hardly complain too much. Honestly, I’m still not entirely sure which of this and “This is Not” counts as my favourite song on Melody…, but will give this one the edge because I think hearing it on Youtube was what convinced me to buy the album? Mmmhm
17Blonde Redhead
Penny Sparkle


Penny Sparkle

The melancholy tracks on this album are just too stupid good. Kazu’s voice is just the perfect fit for this kind of minimalist dream pop for downcast eyes, and hearing her slowly coax herself out of a murmur to reach a wordless near-howl for the song’s bridge is one of the most delicately handled moments of subtle release you’ll hear in a song of this kind. Deeply lonesome track, but one of the most stirring things in the BR canon when the time is right I want you to be sad to it often and always. Ugh. So, so bleak.
16Blonde Redhead
Fake Can Be Just As Good


Oh James

It’s hopefully no newsflash at this point that anyone turning to Blonde Redhead for their primary source of bangers is, respectfully, out of their fucking mind, but “Oh James” is a rare exception where the gang drop their frosty arthouse stylings and tense interplay, and just fire on all the cylinders. All of them! This is *the* Blonde Redhead noise rock banger, from its chromatic banger of a riff to its banger yelp-verses to its banger chorus seen off with banger tableflip end-quip (THERE’S SOMEONE WATCHING YOU) and banging drum performance, which sees Simone smash so many fucking cymbals throughout the verses that you’d think he’d showed up to fucking jazz practice and decided to give it the beans regardless. The bass also slaps. Obviously (RIP). This one is lean banging goodness and it bangs. Worthy of the Unwound tie-in (RIP [2]) and on par with like half of Repetition. Get it!!
15Blonde Redhead
Penny Sparkle


Black Guitar

Black guitar gave me a voice
The famous last words
All I hate is here
Moving onto urgent matters
In the end I didn't die
In the end I didn't die

These lines right here are some Beth Gibbons-tier shit and one of the most chilling performances Kazu has ever laid down. Literal goosebumps every time — no idea what the lyrics mean, but, like, do you follow the plot when you watch a Bond film? Not if the minor arps are as on-point as these, you bloody don’t! Yes, the verses are a *little* lacking by comparison, but by no means a slouch. Brrrr. Those last couple of minutes are the apex of Blonde Noirhead (even if certain other songs explore that niche better as a whole). Shivers.
14Blonde Redhead
Misery is a Butterfly


Pink Love

Oh gawd. Equal parts arrowing culmination of the claustrophobic side of Misery is a Butterfly, and devastating affirmation of love. Really touching lyrics played off against a stiflingly woozy composition. So, so, so fucking dense. Oppressive lysergic hell. Words fail. Not a song I often jam by itself. Absolutely epic in its way. The kind of song that makes you feel like survive it. Ah.
13Blonde Redhead
23


Publisher

For the longest time, Publisher was *the* Amedeo song for me — not only is it a late-ish standout on an album where the standard for standouts is a proper arms race, but it also shows off his mid-career range perfectly, from nasal pining to the ominous soapbox moment of the chorus. Chorus? *Uh*, how about more songs where the chorus comes as the mfing plot twist that this one does? L o v e how the song sets itself up to be dreary as all hell and sloooooowly pivots round to flexing claws and swagger — absolute masterclass in slowly nurturing suspense, flexes a few shoegaze but packs subtlety and songwriting fibre way beyond the vast majority of even classic gazers. You can practically feel the stormclouds gathering over this one, and the way the band play that much tension off against so little release is just perfect. Minus like a quarter point because Kazu’s cameo is somewhat extraneous; otherwise spotless.
12Blonde Redhead
Penny Sparkle


Spain

A theme you’ve probably clocked onto by now is that Blonde Redhead are a) almost always great at openers and b) not always good at closers, but very fucking great at them when they decide to be good? Cool, uh, so. “Spain” is the perfect closer for Penny Sparkle — it dials in all the icy-gazed seduction we heard on “Oslo”, all the *chills* we got from the album’s frigid-cum-noir side on “Black Guitar”, and the spartan tundra-palette we’ve been hearing throughout all the album. Kazu’s storytelling is on top form here, covering all the best themes (ill-advised decisions, betrayal, impetuous sex) in a magnetic series of lines (my sister sayyyys NO MORE CALLING YOU) that trace perilously round one of the choicest themes for this era of Blonde Redhead: experience vs. innocence, and the way the fracture of the latter is deeply inscribed in the facade the former (I only want the love; COULD ME BACK MY MODESTY). It’s uncommon to hear a song this steamy take such pains to wrestle with its own desire, and the derelict palette of the song/album gives us all the room we need to read into the unease/two-mindedness of the narrator. Haunting stuff, similar to “The Dress” in many senses though even more dramatic and a little deeper in its portrayal (even if it lacks a line as all-encompassing as “The Dress”’ signature lyric). It’s not my favourite nor the most profound of Blonde Redhead’s loss-of-innocence tracks, but let’s just say it provides an impeccable anxious converse to a song that will be appearing even higher up the list and makes for a spotless end to a heavily overlooked record.
11Blonde Redhead
Misery is a Butterfly


Equus

More than its meticulously clean choice of tones, its frankly disgustingly catchy chorus hook, or its righteously stomp-that-floor—viable credentials as an energetic rock song, “Equus” is a bloody extraordinary closer for how it takes the knot of anxiety and trauma that have been percolating without reprieve through easily the darkest record in the BR catalog (and only just come to a delirious head in “Pink Love”), and blows it all away in a ROMP for the ages. This song bangs! It bangs in the way that all bangers bang (SING IT OUT!), and it bangs because it swats away 40-ish minutes of Bad Fucking Vibes like it’s nothing at all — the way this song cleans the air is just about the most sprightly, affirmation, optimistic buoyant fucking relief you get in this discog, and if it also happens to be an indie rock stormer with a weird Heritage Genre inflection I can’t quite pin down (it’s not klezmer? why do I want to say klezmer), then we are, uh, storming. Yes.
10Blonde Redhead
Sit Down for Dinner


Snowman

“Snowman” is the first and best song on the last Blonde Redhead album, which in turn is the first of a series of bests and lasts that—well, here you are: it is the most melodious song in there entire discog, which maybe ain’t the quality many turn to them for, but is appreciated all the same when it comes with vocal harmonies as utterly resplendent as this chorus; it is the most representative of the turn from anxious to frigid to outright *mellow* and mature that marks their 3 O’Clock/Sit Down For Dinner era, and it is maybe the most accessible the bunch too with the bright droning jangle (à la Big Thief - Little Things, not actual drone!) of its acoustic palette, its nifty as hell beat, and its steady accumulation of momentum (for my money unrivalled by anything else in their canon aside from the “23” title-track); testament to that momentum, it made for one of the most transportive live performances I’ve seen in the last couple of years; and, most importantly, it is *the* Amedeo song for me! That’s right, our shaggy, nasal co-hero features no higher on this list, as a lead vocalist anyhow, and I don’t feel bad in the slightest about this because his performance here is straight killer and makes for the kind of high watermark any one of y’all yuppie scum Julian Casablancas or Ezra Koenig or other tasteless NYC indie abominations would q conceivably sell their grandmothers and a hefty proportion of their trust funds to net. After multiple decades in the Marmite jar, the boy is finally a certifiable ear-pleaser! And if Kazu happens to back him up with said perfect harmonies and some godknowswhat backing vox monkey noises, well, “Snowman” is built on the kind solid, straightforward foundations that leave ample room for a little extra contour.
9Blonde Redhead
23


The Dress

Don’t let the dress trick you,
I love you less
Now that I know you

S-tier songwriting on this one, razor-sharp set of lyrics that perfectly flesh out a painfully vivid impression (high-stakes infidelity), backed with an arrangement tense enough to be very fucking tense but understated enough to force you to read into every line and contour (and jfc those impeccable glacial tones dish out the goods). It doesn’t have the scale of “Spain”’s dark narrative, but it doesn’t need it either: this song works perfectly in its immediacy: everything is laid out in brutal clarity and there’s no space left to look away. Absolutely no fucking about on this one, just a choice sound palette for gripping storytelling. Perfectly simple.
8Blonde Redhead
In an Expression of the Inexpressible


Missile ++

Lol there’s no song quite like “Missile ++”, and, uh, I love how little of a centre of gravity it has? Kazu’s inflections are indecipherable and do very little to anchor anything at all despite being an integral part of the song? There aren’t really any melodies to speak of? The bass and chord progression are almost purposefully drab yet somehow supremely cool (as is the slightly dubby feel that runs through the whole thing)? The percussion kind of makes it? But so does the where-why-HOW shittyflute harmony that chimes in for the end of Amedeo’s mumble chorus? This is a long way from actual noiz rock, but feels as uncompromising in its attention starve as the album’s most intense moments? Love love love how many quirky details it throws in and how it gives you fuckall to do but focus intensely on them — and it all fits together seamlessly? What a great fucking trundle. This song is UNDERRATED and I doubt anyone else would put it in their top 10, but unlike some picks where I’ll concede a little bias (including the one coming right up ahead), this is one point where you are all officially WRONG and I am right because “Missile ++” slaps uh the end listen to it.
7Blonde Redhead
Misery is a Butterfly


Anticipation

Right, so having covered how “Equus” makes such great work clearing the air at the very end of Misery of the Butterfly, look back and picture the converse for a moment: ten almost relentlessly dreich songs that pile trauma upon trauma over the creepy porcelain facade of an artsy chamber pop record. It’s a horrible, stifling record in so many senses, and although it’s magnificently realised, profoundly moving and quite understandably considered the band’s best by many, the majority of the time, I just can’t.

However, “Anticipation” is my most-listened song on the album by a good distance, landing as the only point in the main tracklist (let’s call “Equus” an epilogue) where the mask cracks for a moment and something close to an unfiltered sob gets choked out from behind it, in particular the final verse —

Maybe it didn't happen
Maybe all of this would go away
And if we're ever young again
He'll anticipate
We'll evaluate

— this right here is a primo tired-of-being-sad//why-am-I-still-so-depressed//how-can-it-all-be bawler where you’re invited to throw your arms up and process the enormity of it all — whatever the fuck ‘it’ is — even as it crashes around you. This is maybe the most empathic and moving moment in the Blonde Redhead discog, backed up by an elegiac guitar refrain and keyboards placed in such a high range that they land like a shower of rain over the rest of the arrangement, and it makes for a stupendously necessary song to Misery…’s emotional journey, not to mention the best and most viable Bridget-Jones-crying—type choon here.
6Blonde Redhead
Misery is a Butterfly


Elephant Woman

Ugh ugh ugh this song is perfect and hits its mark and makes me feel sick, and I maybe respect it more than I love it, but both sides put on one hell of an arms race? This is one of those “statement” tracks that come impeccably formed, plausibly within one single rush of inspiration/relief of experience, and jfc the detail the band flesh it out with from there is impeccable: its percussion is up with the best of Misery as is its string arrangement (is that a full quartet? creepy pizz vs nauseous legato is absolutely perfect for this!). Obviously its relentless, horrible, try-to-look-away chills to hear Kazu grasping the bull by the horns (horribly misplaced metaphor smh) and kicking off this dark night of the soul of an album with a stark account of the horse injury and facial surgery that inspired it. Yikes. I feel a little awkward declaring this the best song on Misery over “Anticipation”, which I’ve come back to individually far more, but I think this is more of a reflection of the emotional burden involved in this one (vs. the relative relief “Anticipation” dishes out) than a mark of its quality. If anything, this track still makes me feel squeamish — and if that’s not a mark of its power, then… No fucking idea how they play this shit as a live staple. Harrowing fucking song.
5Blonde Redhead
Blonde Redhead


Swing Pool

“Swing Pool” is a perfect rock song for exactly the same reasons as Sonic Youth’s “Starpower”: it takes the breathless worldview of a wide-eyed girl in a grotty neighbourhood, and compresses them to filth under layer upon layer of haze, distortion, disorientation, NYC-trademarked gloom and precarious daydreams, such that a sordid quality lingers over the purest feelings at its core. Skim those lyrics, and the song a ditsy romantic gush, but factor in those murky aesthetics and the vile outpouring of noise that fuels its bridge, and it’s about as wholesome as treacle under a blowtorch. There isn’t an original idea in sight throughout this song (and it’s no patch on the og “Starpower” for lyrics-on-paper), but neither is there anything inauthentic to be found in Kazu’s breathless pinings, which are really the be-all-and-all here. Failing that… well, producer Steve Shelley originally joined SY just in time to experience first-hand exactly how those caustic guitars were perfected on EVOL. Turns out fake can be just as good after all (hurr), but if you made it this far, you presumably already knew that.
4Blonde Redhead
Fake Can Be Just As Good


Symphony of Treble

+kazu yell
++noise harmonix
+++aura of kool
++++bass groove guitar groove Unwound bass groove gawd the groove
+++++that nifty fuckin coda where the “Kazuality" intro lick suddenly loops around and finds where it was supposed to be all along, and lo and behold not one but *two* songs are rounded off to perfection gg
++++++by far the best Blonde Redhead noise rock song even including my bias for “Swing Pool”, this is just a template banger on all fronts log
3Blonde Redhead
Penny Sparkle


My Plants Are Dead

Aight, few surmising thoughts before we Go There = I love this band? I love how frosty they are, how highlight-shy many of their albums are, and how unassuming their craft as expert fecking indie songwriters so frequently is (this has been an absolutely fiendish list to draw up as such, but I’m all the gladder we got there)? Like a lot of my favourite bands, they didn’t start anything near to favourite-potential, but gradually picking apart what makes their song tick and getting grazed on the different contours that each of their albums invariably brings has won me over in a way no isolated statement ever could.

and as a result, I really do love that frostiness.

A lot of people say that Misery is a Butterfly is the best BR album bar none, and while I can feel it — it’s my second favourite as an end-to-end (though Penny Sparkle Side-B is the true second best BR!)! — I think the reason I’ve never been able to get on board with that take is that this band is so much more about a brittle, fragile, icy space of guarded emotions that must not under any circumstances be afforded the space to shatter than the traumatic nadir that Misery fleshes out in such intrepid detail. That’s just what resonates with me, and yes — Misery’s illustration of exactly what naked trauma looks like with this band does deeply inform the reservation of their later material (like I said, they’re a whole-discog detail and *all* their work gets better in context!).

and so, even with that attitude of you-have-to-dig-in-to-geddit in mind, this top 3 is very easily my top 3. These are songs I love within and beyond Blonde Redhead’s discog, that transcend and (for this and #1) epitomise it, that I’d recommend to anyone without feeling a need to introduce the band, that are among my favourite songs generally etcetc.. “My Plants Are Dead” and #1 have a fair bit in common in how they flesh out the band’s superficially icy side but infuse a distinctive sense of warmth, though this one isn’t quite so abstract. I feel a little bad putting it ahead of a song so full of compassion and catharsis as “Anticipation”, because almost every respect in which it scratches the same itches just a tad harder seems comparatively inadvertent here: lyrically, it’s an almost bemusingly low-stakes piece where a washed-out Kazu reads out a list of texts she received from New York pal with whom she’d evidently been somewhat out of touch.

That’s it. Literally this whole track is a glorified set of ‘long time no see, hyd?’s, and while the overall impression is almost wilfully banal, but there’s something frank, washed-out, weary, unapologetically lonesome, nostalgic, wistfully tender — subtly humane — to it that I can’t imagine quite catching from any other artist (maybe it comes from adjustment to how withdrawn Kazu’s personal standpoint is within her lyrics — gotta get that whole discog exposure!). When I first heard the list of names that makes up the coda, I heard so much latent emotion in the delivery that I read into it far too much and heard the “tell me about heeeeeeer” in the final line as a brutally bittersweet sting in the tail, sent to a not-so-recent ex (which would shift the whole song into the realm of fiction and kinda defeat the point, but sssh).

plus my mum loves this one lol

and the guitar break is chill i guess
2Blonde Redhead
23


23

“23” is a shoe-in lol, one of the most pristine album openers ever and a phenomenal daytrip into shoegaze heaven. Glacial fuzz and tremolo action galore here, but that propulsive beat and inimitable shrill/dreamlike vocal styling from Kazu give it a push up to S-tier: this is on the one hand one of *the* perfect shoegaze songs, but also has enough individual flair and kinetic oomph to sit well outside the toolkit of the majority of gaze acts. It packs all the washed-out appeal of full-on shoegaze alongside levels of momentum that even the zaniest gaze-heads rarely aspired to; it’s better than anything on Loveless, or practically any other gaze record you care to name. Strong songwriting plays a role here, but the sheer *motion* inspired by this thing has to be felt to be believed (I’ve always loved it for its momentous drumbeat, but seeing it live and feeling the fucking wave of yes-thou-shalt-dance that descended upon the entire venue the moment Kazu hit those na-na-nas was beyond belief — even “Elephant Woman” couldn’t so much as sniff at it that night, though fwiw, “Snowman” gave it a fair run for its money). It is also catchy as all hell. Pretty much the default pick for the best Blonde Redhead song to be the point that anyone trying to argue anything too far out of its lane comes off as contrarian no matter how much they substantiate their case (same vibes as anyone challenging Mulholland Drive or Blue Velvet for the best Lynch with Eraserhead (Misery), Lost Highway (anything pre-Misery) or Inland Empire (anything post-23)). Instant classic.
1Blonde Redhead
23


My Impure Hair

Ditto everything I said from the first however-many paras of the “My Plants Are Dead” blurb, and then recall everything else from the “Spain” blurb, and then add in a bunch of apropos-nothing psych folk sensibilities that suit this band unsettlingly well but are never again touched on within their discog (excepting maybe “Rest of Her Life”, the tiniest bit). Been following?

Uh, so, this is a profound snapshot of the awkward side of intimacy, and it bounced the hell off me the first time I heard it. But I loved the record. So round it went, again and again, and as it did, those lines — “I’m shaped to get in your way”, “Maybe I live again, but would I lose again my virginity?” — and those strained, obliquely emotional inflections gradually got under my skin. There’s a truth to this song that lands more squarely with me than any other BR track (would make an exception for “Swing Pool”, “The Dress” or “Spain”, but those are more moods or scenes than truths), the truth of loving someone for long enough to be changed by them, of learning to recognise how you’ve grown with them with honesty and ambivalence, of looking at the weight of your realtionshi and the imprint of all you’ve sacrificed and surrendered for it, and in the face of all that, loving them enough to share that experience with them regardless.

This is a beautiful song for how honestly it lays this all out, succinctly and complexly without quite being cryptic, and I l o v e how the lethargic backing instrumental plays into the weariness and inscrutability Kazu brings to her performance. Just lovely hazy shimmer and nae more. Sometimes that’s all it takes — neither Simone nor Amedeo have anything close to their usual flair here, but it doesn’t matter. Everything about this one screams 'mature' in a genuinely insightful sense, with none of the staleness that normally comes with the term. Courtesy of which, in the same way that “23” was probably majorly responsible for taking a hatchet to my ailing relationship with MBV’s wavy-fuzz material, this one made for viable exit music (kms) from whatever emotional crutch I was still leaning on Radiohead for at the time. And I’m fucking grateful. Beautiful song, fantastic discog, best album, thank you for your time.
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