Release Date: Apr 10, 2007
Record label: 4AD
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
With each album since Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons, Blonde Redhead has made huge strides forward with their sound. Misery Is a Butterfly pitted fragile melodies against dark, swirling arrangements, and its tragic glamour turned the album into a cult favorite. On 23, the band trades the cloistered chamber rock of Butterfly for tone-bending dream pop and subtle electronics; while the wide open spaces sound a little bare at first, this streamlined approach ends up making this Blonde Redhead's loveliest and most accessible work yet.
In the 13 years since this NYC trio’s debut, their sound has matured from shrieky noise to warm, textured art rock. Their seventh LP, 23, unfolds like a vivid dream, as Kazu Makino and Amedeo Pace’s drowsy vocals float in and out of focus above layered guitars and keyboards; subdued atmospherics (”The Dress”) give way to urgent pleas (”Spring and by Summer Fall”) and danceable grooves (”Silently”). It’s an enthralling listen, proving once and for all that they deserve the wide success of fellow travelers like Radiohead and Sonic Youth.
Review Summary: 23 is huge. Take that any way you want, because it applies.The mix of cultural backgrounds that the members of Blonde Redhead provide surely influences their sound. How much more unlikely does it get than two Italian twins who actually grew up in Canada and a Japanese girl who relocated to the US for study purposes meeting each other and forming a band in New York? From there, they took influence from no wave bands and picked up Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley to do their producing.
Blonde Redhead's last album, 2004's Misery Is a Butterfly, was overshadowed by vocalist Kazu Makino's long recovery after being trampled by a horse, and was dominated by her equestrian imagery and melancholy reflection. With Makino recovered, the band's latest is a lighter offering, but retains a sense of the transcendental. Openers 23 and Dr Strangelove fuse plangent minor chords, bustling drumming and ghostly, childlike sighs; the wonderful result sounds a bit like the classic TV theme The White Horses, as covered by the Cocteau Twins or Lush.
Times and styles change. When it comes to bands, the inevitable debate is over whether stasis equals stagnation or change is synonymous with selling out. When addressing Blonde Redhead's seventh album, cryptically entitled 23, it's tempting to frame the discussion in terms of the band's evolution since their rough-edged beginnings. Having moved away from their early -- and overt -- Sonic Youth worship, the band's current sound makes their association with the 4AD label more and more apropos.