What a fear Blonde Redhead caused its fans. It appeared as though the band were dead. No new release since 2000's brilliant Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons and no news to alleviate fears that this odd trio was busted up. Certainly I had written them off, sadly as their music has always provided an escape to a wonderful place. And then they return with Misery is a Butterfly [4AD] a collection of eerie little tunes that not only picks up where Melody left off but brings the listener further into the sad and beautiful world of Blonde Redhead.
To be fair, they have an excuse. Singer/guitarist Kazu Makino suffered from serious injuries relating to a horse riding accident that resulted in a long recuperation. She was, it has been reported, in great pain even during the recording of the new record. The long hours of therapy and discomfort could possibly have been the muse for this record's overall feel of genuine suffering. Whatever the catalyst, the result is a polished set of breathtakingly painful and introspective songs that, like most of their recent material, borders on pop sensibility and is completely refreshing, albeit gloomy and morose.
Blonde Redhead has been compared to other bands for reasons that sometimes make sense. Sonic Youth was an early comparison, maybe because Steve Shelley produced their first record. Kazu has been called a Japanese Bjork due to her off-beat-yet-hypnotic vocal styling. The twin brothers from Milan, Amedo and Simone Pace help fill out the band's racially diverse background and Amedo's own voice, nasal and Italian accented, works well juxtaposed to Kazu's breathy delivery. The combination of these players was always interesting and often exhilarating to behold. The early dissonant feedback and screams have tapered off and given birth to a more subdued and far more engaging sound. In short, Blonde Redhead has evolved.
From the opening-- the single (ha!) "Elephant Woman"--to the sprawling, elegant "Pink Love" Misery is a Butterfly goes deep into states of depression, despair, loss, pain and even profound joy, often in the same track. We get more of a sense of the record as a whole than a collection of individual songs. Each perfect downbeat moment flows effortlessly around the listener creating the mood one might capture with candlelight and incense, a sort of quiet and dark contemplative feeling that most bands try for (and fail to create.) Blonde Redhead understands itself and their art. Blonde Redhead is simply Blonde Redhead-an entity unlike any other.