Blonde Redhead - 23 (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Blonde Redhead

23 (2007)


Blonde Redhead split ways with Touch and Go a few years ago, and after considering being free agents, they said "We're going to need a bigger boat" and got picked up by 4AD. The subsequent album, Misery Is Butterfly was a grand departure from their original Sonic Youth inspired noise-ery, and perhaps the Next Logical Step after Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons. Instead of experimenting with alternate takes on melody and structure, the band went full out with extremely lush arrangements including tons of layers of keys and strings on top of the band's already original rhythm structures. The whole album was set to a maudlin tune, perhaps being described by its album title better than any album I can think of. The melodies were gorgeous with intricate orchestration. Heartbreak never sounded so gorgeous.

With that in mind, 23 kicks off with the title track "23." Setting the tone for the entire album, "23" features straightforward 4/4 time with spacey chord progressions held out for the entire measure. The mood evoked hits closer to chill out than maudlin, and if you're anything like me, you'll probably feel sort of bored right away. "Dr. Strangeluv" offers a bit more of the same, the huge guitar sounds evoking a sense of mid-`80s electronica inspired acts like Depeche Mode. And though simplified from Misery Is a Butterfly, already the album is beginning to take shape.

The focus on intricate melodies remains the same, but it's apparent that by the time we hit "Spring and by Summer Fall" that the drums have taken a back seat for the back beat and the heavy syncopated rhythms I was expecting have dissipated. The previously mentioned track is as straightforward as their earlier material, but the guitars are a bit more My Bloody Valentine than Sonic Youth. Following, the disco inspired beat of "Silently" carries the track through Kazu's poppy chorus and dreamy backing vocals. The range is now exposed, the mood of the album varies from track to track, and "Publisher" and "Heroine" recall Misery through their down-tone and intricate rhythms. Ever-expanding, the album caps off with "My Impure Hair," featuring acoustic and slide guitars with a swung feel to it, like a lazy lullaby.

Surprisingly, the standout track on the album is "Spring and by Summer Fall." By looking back at their older material, these dudes have taken a step forward once more. Driving and catchy without being annoyingly poppy, I predict "Spring and by Summer Fall" will eventually become tied in with a movie or commercial or some other pop culture tie-in. But damn, who could blame a corporation for wanting to cash in on a song this good?

A tiny Japanese girl and two Italian brothers singing in English. An album named after the average age of Punknews readers still living in their parents' basement. One shittily written review. One vocoder used on track number nine. Some keyboards and a lot of guitars. All this from a band named after a DNA track. Rock up your torrent client, pull out your wallets, load up that iTunes. However you scamps do it, just get this album and stop complaining.