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Blonde Redhead - 23

Released on 4AD, 4/10/07

I oftentimes wonder how a band can stay fresh in its inevitable maturity, how it can both fight off the repetitive monotony of stylistic transfixion and yet continue to evolve and influence. With the onslaught of industry promotion, our ever-shortening attention spans, and the relatively recent introduction of music piracy sites and file-sharing programs, it’s a wonder bands make it past their introductory album before being buried in another’s media blitz. In the creation of one comes the demise of the creator. Enter Blonde Redhead, a band discovered by Steve Shelley, drummer of Sonic Youth, in 1993.

The fact that their original sound was near unclassifiable, paired with the fact that Shelly picked them up, produced and released their first record, had people drawing the simplistic and unfortunate conclusion that they sounded like early Sonic Youth. Which is not to say that early Sonic Youth is a drag but that Blonde Redhead had their own thing going, people just didn’t know quite where to place them yet.

Eight albums later and still well in the running comes their latest work, 23, a ten-song journey done with the elegance, grace, and depth of true clairvoyants. This band has gained such a stylistic maturity over the years that each song almost plays itself before you. The phrases are inherently present, sliding from verse to chorus, and from song to song.

The opening track, “23”, slips quickly into their signature groove with vocalist Kazu Makino backing herself up in true doo-wop fashion, and a driving rhythmical force that moves the listener straight through to the next song, “Dr. Strangeluv”, a magical sounding homage to those lost along the way. The fourth track, “SW”, fronted by guitarist and vocalist Amedeo Pace takes a very Beatles-esqe turn about midway through with the introduction of a horn section much like that in Sergeant Pepper, and the sweet “Silently” sounds as if it came straight from a session with Phil Spector. Obvious influences aside, this is easily one of the best albums of the year, from a band well worthy of the honor.

Blonde Redhead may have lost a bit of their edge over the years -- Amedeo’s jagged guitars, Simone’s tangled drumming, and Kazu’s piercing vocal screeches -- but what they have developed is a growing softness, a confident stylistic treatment, and a classification all their own.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars