January 17, 2008
It wasn't supposed to be like this. By the time I was 36, I was supposed to be living in Manhattan. I was meant to have an awesome job, in a building with lots of natural light, staffed with wacky, creative types. On weekends I would visit the galleries in Chelsea with my fashion model wife. At night we would hold elaborate dinner parties with my good friends Whit Stillman, Parker Posey and Eric Stoltz. People would seek out my opinions on the latest books, film, design and music. There would be stray copies of Wallpaper and Interview strewn about my loft apartment.
Thankfully bands like Blonde Redhead and their New York cool let me pretend I'm living the dream. This Manhattan-based band has a unique sound that's been tagged as avant garde. Their music does tend sometimes to be non-linear, but any band with a Japanese chick lead singer will get that. They do give off an art school vibe, however, almost like some European band.
Cocteau Twins, or Lush (go figure, another Asian female lead singer), but the similarity begins and ends there. The band uses prerecorded tracks mixed with live instruments to great effect, and the resulting fog of music has just enough structure so that it doesn't cross the line into wanker-type "sound experiments" that never turn into real songs.
On the contrary, Blonde Redhead has a number of tracks that verge on being radio-friendly. Their latest single, "23," was a highlight, as were "Misery Is A Butterfly," and "In Particular." Guitar/bassist Amedeo Pace shared singing duty with Makino, and he showed his chops on "Spring and By Summer Fall." But it's Makino's distinctive voice that drives Blonde Redhead. She's far from classically trained, and sometimes verges into screeching territory, but mostly she uses her voice as another instrument in the aural miasma of the band. "Equus" in particular was a highlight--in a live setting, the words sound as if they've been fed through machine translation software two or three times. All the elements of the Blonde Redhead sound are held together by the metronomic drumming of the other member of the Pace family, Simone.
"Equus" (Blonde Redhead, Misery Is A Butterfly, 2004)
On the down side, music like Blonde Redhead's can be a tad slow in parts, and for portions of the show the crowd was fading and I was looking for a place to sit. There were a few extended random noise-style jams, and I was struck by how close they were to sounding like a Grateful Dead-type drumz/space jam. Probably not what they were after, but that's not my fault.
I liked these guys a lot and thus give them an RC rating of 7.4. For all you devoted Hustler readers, that's about halfway between three-quarters and 100% erect. Rock Club is split on Blonde Redhead. Jumbo Slice thought they were just average, RC sub Ted liked them, and Potsy said they sounded like Pink Floyd. We walked to Manny & Olga's to get jumbo slices (where'd you think the Jumbo Slice name came from, anyway?) and discuss. We were surprised there wasn't a big crowd of people hanging around the Black Cat, until I remembered that the scheduled MGMT/Yeasayer show had been moved from the Backstage to Fed Ex Field as a result of these efforts. Power to the People, yeah!