The band's gently mournful economy of style is adorned by a cinematic breadth of instrumentation and by arrangements of rich depth. "Misery..." is a creative leap forward from their last album, "Melody Of Certain Damaged L... more »emons".« less
The band's gently mournful economy of style is adorned by a cinematic breadth of instrumentation and by arrangements of rich depth. "Misery..." is a creative leap forward from their last album, "Melody Of Certain Damaged Lemons".
"You know those records that catch a band at their peak? The ones that come around where the planets are aligned and all is right in your world? It has happened to a lot of artists: Pavement's - Crooked Rain Crooked Rain, U2's - Joshua Tree and even something like Blur's - Parklife. Now I'm not comparing Misery is a Butterfly to those, just simply drawing a look to what is happening with the latest Blonde Redhead release. I really feel that this record is what they've been striving to achieve for some time now, the timing is indeed right. The planets are lining up and the music snobs are coming around as well.It is a beautiful record. The arrangements are lush the vocals are unique and well-mixed. The lyrics are thoughful and engaging. One can sense the craft that went into such a piece of work. My favorite tunes off Misery are the first two. Esp. the haunting, The Messenger, it has such style and grace, you'll be hooked from the opening bars. It is hard to classify this record into a genre - but if I had to do it, I would throw it somewhere in the arena of lush-indie. The strings they use are more present and they really sound great throughout. They switch up singers to a nice flow. They use classical breaks and bridges one might find at an opera. There are a lot of things going on, all good."
An acquired taste, but quite rewarding
Christopher Nieman | Los Angeles, CA United States | 07/23/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I knew nothing of Blonde Redhead before I read a music review in a local free paper this year, and it interested me enough to visit the label's website and try an MP3 of the title track to this album. I went out and bought the album, and what a pleasant discovery it was.
Blonde Redhead is composed of Kazu Makino and twins Amadeo and Simone Pace. They create a sound often compared to Sonic Youth (especially their early, more unstructured sound), but since this is the only full album of theirs I've heard, I can't help but compare them with Radiohead.
Probably BR's most eclectic part, and some would argue their weakest link, is their vocals. If you remember the first time you heard Radiohead's Thom Yorke or Jane's Addiction's Perry Farrell, or even Geddy Lee of Rush, some vocalists are at first challenging to the ear, and then become rewarding over time. The often whiny vocals of Amadeo Pace and Kazu Makino's breathy, narrow range certainly fall into that category. But like the other vocalists I mentioned, if you listen further you'll find their vocals suit the music quite well in their own way. Pace's vocals have an honest, charming style with more than a tinge of angst, while Makino has a disarming, ethereal, atmospheric style that really sets off their moodier material.
And this album is quite moody. It's where the comparisons to Radiohead become evident. The theme of this record is framed around the band's turmoil of the last few years, after Makino was seriously injured in a fall from a horse, and the Pace brothers decided on an unofficial, semi-working hiatus while she recovered. The camaraderie between the Paces and Makino is made crystal clear in recent writeups of the band -- all three believe they have something wonderful together and nothing was going to keep them from making music together. This album is essentially a tribute to their own mutual friendship.
On the first song of the album, "Elephant Woman," Makino sees herself as disfigured from her accident like the Elephant Man, inside and out, even remarking defeatedly, "Now inside and outside are matching." Straight afterward, "Messenger" has Amadeo saying, "Somewhere in your mind, you know you're doing fine." These songs set the pace for the album -- Makino in pain, wondering if recovery is possible, with Amadeo (and implicitly, Simone) keeping vigil, unable to help fully but staying by the side of their friend.
The title track, "Misery is a Butterfly," is rightly the album's centerpiece, set off by a surreal ensemble string arrangement, Amadeo's rhythm guitar, Simone's syncopated drums, Makino's keyboard melody and her spooky, affecting vocal, all contrasting brilliantly together like a threatening sky. It's one of those songs that stays with me for hours after listening. It is one of the best songs I've heard all year.
"Anticipation" is another clear album highlight, dark and brooding and yet somewhat hopeful, with a seductive, whispery vocal by Makino. As with the title track, this makes clear that Blonde Redhead's strengths lie in the strange contrasts of darkness and light, a moody approach reminiscent of Radiohead's masterpiece OK COMPUTER.
After the refreshingly bouncy (yet oddly themed) track "Maddening Cloud," there's "Magic Mountain," named after the Thomas Mann novel. But it's Haruki Murakami's NORWEGIAN WOOD that I think of, vividly, as I listen to "Magic Mountain," hearing Makino seemingly vocalizing the despair of the character of that great novel, looking plaintively at her life from a mountain refuge.
The album ends with an upbeat, loose, somewhat punk-style track, "Equus," which is supposedly a message of forgiveness to horses, but sounds to me like Makino thanking her patient bandmates with the line, "Allow me to show you the way which I adore you." It's an appropriate end to an eclectic, emotionally honest collection of music. The album isn't all brilliant, but at its best, it can soar in the stratosphere. I look forward to their future music. Three and a half stars."
Soundtrack to a bad memory
Rubin Carver | Gilbert, AZ USA | 08/07/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Blonde Redhead is one of many bands I found on various 'so you want to get into indie' lists and downloaded essentially at random. Now I must state in advance that I am no afficionado in regards to the styles of music this fairly vague genre encompasses, and that I also have not been very impressed by most of the bands I have heard. However there can be no mistake... Misery is a Butterfly is beautiful music.
This album is designed to hit nerves, hard. Every melody is crafted with intent and deliberation, and the progressions are largely orchestral in nature - many moments in this album bring to mind the melodramatic chord pivots of pieces written by Beethoven. Amadeo's voice conjures Thom Yorke post-back alley beating, crying for mercy and a little humanity, please. Kazu's voice provides a ghostly, exhausted alternative to the self-absorbtion of Amedeo. They work in concert beautifully.
Almost any song on Misery is a Butterfly could be considered a highlight without much of a stretch. It opens with the deeply sentimental, meloncholic "Elephant Woman," which brings to mind all the saddest moments in a Benji film. The longing rhodes piano and tentative, loping snare drum of "Melody" is a haunting, cynical look through an old shoebox of things you forgot about long ago and maybe didn't want to remember. "Falling Man" is another highlight (but where are the lowlights?), with one of the most bent tearjerk melodies in recent memory. "Doll Is Mine" is the furious protest of someone who is obviously far too disadvantaged to do anything about what is plagueing them. "Maddening Clovd" is clearly the climax of this record, although not necessarily the last good song; It provides a high energy, hopeful beam of light at the end of the tunnel. Even against the brutal melody, the pace of the song seems to suggest "we're still gonna try our best!"
A highly recommended album for any fan of indie, alternative rock, or any emotionally impactful form of music. A little sentimental, yes, but that's not inherrantly a bad thing, and this album is evidence of that. Indie seems most likely to be a downhill journey for me from here."
Excellent "Artsy" Album is Much Needed Fresh Air
Paul Allaer | Cincinnati | 08/30/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Someone lent me this album, thinking I would enjoy it, and boy, have I ever. It wasn't long before I bought the album myself. Disclaimer: I have not heard any of Blonde Redhead's other albums, so when I see the frequent references to Sonic Youth regarding BLonde Redhead's earlier work, I can only scratch my head, because this particular album sounds absolutely nothing like Sonic Youth, not even close.
"Misery Is a Butterfly" (11 tracks, 45 min.) instead invokes memories for me to past "sophisticated, artsy" music, for example not unlike Kate Bush but harder charging. Even a comparison to Sixpence None the Richer is not out of place, with rich melodies and textures throughout the album. Lead vocals on some songs (such as the excellent opener and first single "Elephant Woman" and also the title track) are by Kazu Makino, and she shines. On other songs Amadeo Pace sings lead, including on "Falling Man", my favorite song on the album, and on the equally ecellent "Doll Is Mine".
I can't emphasize enough how much I like this album. It provides some much needed change and fresh air in today's music scene. This surely will end up on my shortlist of favorite albums of 2004. Strongly recommended!"
Defining Their Own Sound
Kristin Cotterell | Los Angeles, CA United States | 04/07/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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."