Review Summary: Songs to warm both your heart and the underside of a spoon
Despite being paradoxical in both name and nature, Blonde Redhead's self-titled debut lays down a clear mission statement for the band. During the course of Blonde Redhead
, the band let listeners know that they're dedicated to following their collective noses, in the sense that they'll chase whatever odours infiltrate their worn-down septums and substance-widened nasal passages to the bitter fu
Put bluntly, Blonde Redhead are sonically weird, and looking to explore their weirdness as an addict explores the outer limits of sanity. Clearly this was a mindset that Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley could empathise with, as he was so impressed with the relatively cherubic band's propensity for portraying every inch of the spectrum of kinda fu
cked up shi
t that he decided to [s]go on a bender with[/s] produce their very first LP.
What this spastic group then delivers on Blonde Redhead
consists of some some back-to-basics drums (for reference, listen to Sciuri Sciura
) that spend the majority of the album at an intensity comparable to your grandma walking to the fridge, a bassist who seems content mostly keeping things steady with the drummer (for reference, listen to Sciuri Sciura
), guitars that follow a harmonic mantra of “fu
ck it” as often as they don't, and two vocalists whose more obvious contrasts don't end at their respective sexes. These unlikely ingredients form a cocktail that's not entirely appetising (for reference, listen to Sciuri Sciura
), but capable of knocking you on your as
s if you drink enough (for reference, see Astro Boy
Opening track I Don't Want U
is a perfect taste of what's to come, with the band ripping through multiple moods throughout, showcasing their various styles of vocals, and coming together for a satisfying conclusion. Although it's the obvious all-rounder indroductory beverage for the incoming binge, the band keep a variety of miniatures up their sleeves to spike you with.
One such spike comes when Kazu Makino sets a globetrotting standard for her vocals during Astro Boy
, with a section of her performance becoming so unhinged that it develops its own narrative. This starts with a few screams so tangibly blood-curdling that you'll find yourself involuntarily wincing as your auditory cortex processes the oncoming sound waves as a surefire precursor to copping a faceful of exploded fragments of Makino's lungs to the face. Somehow she survives this portion of the performance with her chest cavity intact, and shifts her vocals to a kind of simulacra of a soap opera actress shouting as if she's supposed to be angry. This becomes a cry of “how mere” that sounds more like a desperate plea for help rather than the observation that it is. Makino is then wheeled off in her Hannibal Lecter-style straitjacket/trolley combo and kept in a shipping container until further needed.
Impressed and in envy of what his rival singer has achieved on Astro Boy
, Amedeo Pace sets in motion a plan to either match or exceed her acrobatic vocals during his performance on Mama Cita
. Near the end of the track the guitars start making all kinds of noise and Pace begins his very own series of screams. Unfortunately for him, although Makino is safely restrained, her muzzle must have been shaken loose by the song's violent conclusion. Once Makino clues on to Pace's nefarious plot to supersede her, she unleashes one of those ear-piercing shrieks it seems like only children are capable of, robbing poor Pace of all momentum. The band then swiftly finish the song, as if they were just like, “Again with this shi
t？!” and called it a day.
If this based-on-true-events story sounds messy, that's because it is. Fear not, reader, because within this wild unpredictability lies Blonde Redhead
is a song that I believe was named after the snippet of a Neurosis practice that Blonde Redhead overheard and attempted to replicate, adding in a couple of their own diversions in order to break the three-minute mark. Swing Pool
starts as a relatively melodic effort with a strangely Radiohead-esque chorus before switching gears halfway through to present the listener with a carefully constructed pile of random instrumentation as if it's a macaroni picture they spent a long fu
cking time on. They then defenestrate this pasta-based work of art and switch back to the song they started just minutes before, finishing things off as if nothing strange happened. Girl Boy
stands as a jarring contrast to the rest of the album, being the only song entirely devoid of rock influences. It appears to be about two people fu
cking (a boy and a girl, as the title cleverly alludes to), and notably features perhaps the dullest guitar tone ever spat out of a fully-functioning amp. After this track, the album just stops without so much as an apology for the juxtapositional coda, leaving you waiting for something that's never coming as the band dash off into the night.
probably won't be the weirdest album you've ever heard. It's not chaotic enough to entirely thrive on nihilism, and it's not controlled enough to warrant talk of amazing musicianship or song-writing abilities. It's a full-blown identity crisis put to record, and the results are nothing short of captivating. Importantly, there's an underlying heart-warming feeling that this band has that something
suggesting that if they either sort all of their drug habits out- or take just the right amount
of the right
drugs- that they'll be able to cook up something truly unique and special later on down the line that'll be well worth mainlining. As a first-time listener, I'm simultaneously excited and scared that I'm going to develop a habit if this holds true.