- Blonde Redhead
- Misery Is a Butterfly
- March 23, 2004
Remember that kid back in high school who tried on every music scene like a pair of pants? One day he's a hip-hopping skater, the next he's ska boy, then punk. One day he shows up in a rainbow parka, with beads and a pacifier dangling, a Sesame Street backpack, and football flags around his waist. "What?" You think, "Poser."
A similar frustration can be experienced with bands that keep changing their sound. You think they've finally hit their mark, and then their next album comes out and it's being played on soft rock stations and car commercials nation wide. Thankfully, such is not the case with Blonde Redhead. Although they have taken a wide turn away from their previous material with their new album, Misery is a Butterfly, the band has finally managed to step completely out of the shadow of Sonic Youth and to solidify their identity as one with a wholly unique and defining sound.
Blonde Redhead is comprised of Italian twins Amedeo and Simone Pace, and Kazu Makino, who skipped out of Kyoto, Japan to arrive in the states during the early '90s. The group has put out several albums, including their self-titled debut Blonde Redhead, La Mia Vita Violenta, and Fake Can Be Just as Good. Their last release before Misery was Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons, which showcased maturation and a promise of good things to come. Well, kids, good things have come indeed.
Assumingly correlated with their switch from the label Smells Like Records to 4AD, the band has shed the beat up leather jacket of punk rock for a more gossamer cloak of floating strings, soft arpeggios, and ever-present synthesizers. But the softness isn't without an edge. Like smeared lipstick, the beauty comes with the tense, mildly dirty quality that's been present in Blonde Redhead's music since their beginning.
The first single off of the album is the first track, "Elephant Woman." Beatles-esque cello and rhythmic chamber melodies roll and waver behind Makino's signature plaintive vocals. Sweet and mysterious enough to put a knot in the belly, this track sets the album's tone from the beginning.
Other noteworthy tracks include "Maddening Cloud" and "Equus." Characterized by a head swaying beat and Rhodes-like keyboard melodies, "Maddening Cloud" again showcases the vocal talents and contemplative lyrics of Kazu. "Why did you kill that poor old man, Melody? She said, he was never good to me. She said, he was never kind to me."
"Equus," sung by both Amedeo and Kazu, starts off with muted breathing and punctuated bass, overlaid with an interesting psychedelic synth sequence. More sporadic and less ambient than most of the other tracks, this song provides a much needed change of pace towards the end of the album.
Constant qualities of Misery include simplistic percussion, a medium pace, melancholy instrumentation, tasteful strings that neither swell to the point of movie soundtrack obnoxiousness nor build to a shattering climax, and a (very) subtle reminiscence of the darker, late '80's/early '90's sound of groups as the Cocteau Twins (also on 4ad), early Cure, and even a touch of Legendary Pink Dots.
While many of the tracks on this album sound similar to each other, and the element of "rock" is barely there, this album is sure to please both old and new fans alike. Rest assured, Blonde Redhead are no posers.
- Kristin Cotterell
- Elephant Woman
- Doll Is Mine
- Misery Is a Butterfly
- Falling Man
- Maddening Cloud
- Magic Mountain
- Pink Love