After 2000’s Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons, it looked as though perhaps Blonde Redhead had taken the boys over at Chunklet magazine up on one of their semi-infamous breakup-for-money offers and threw in the towel. But ’twas not true — turns out singer/guitarist Kazu Makino was thrown from the back of a horse in 2002, which resulted in a jaw injury. The band took some time off while she recovered and re-emerged earlier this year, ready to upend one of the oddest ironies in all of indie rockdom.
Blonde Redhead, for all you folks who slept through the mid-’90s, is a pretentiously delicious, one-time bleeding-edge New York post-punk outfit comprised of two Italian-born twin brothers (guitar, drums) and a Japanese lady with feist to spare up front. Seems like a combo ready-made to stand apart from the crowd, right? Funny enough, no. In the early days, little ado was made about the group that took its name from a DNA song and sounded like Sonic Youth (and was on Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley’s label). Of course, any young band with art-rock dreams would love to hear such lofty comparisons. But the comparison evolved into a negative brand among all but the most loyal Blonde Redhead fans throughout the late ’90s.
One has to imagine that the junior status got old after a while — even the quieter, more subtly rendered Lemons (and the equally superb Melodie Citronique EP) couldn’t do to the Sonic Youth monkey what that trusty steed did to Makino. And as it turns out, the accident’s happy ending was an opportunity to regroup and refocus. Blonde Redhead broke ties with longtime label Touch & Go and made Misery is a Butterfly on their own before shopping it, allegedly to ensure there would be no creative constraints. The album, which 4AD released earlier this year, is Blonde Redhead’s most supple, nuanced and original-sounding album to date. The 11 tracks are as delicate and brooding as the title implies, without virtually any of the shrill angularity of past efforts. It took Blonde Redhead more than a decade to find its identity, but it’s a case of better late than never.
Blonde Redhead performs with Home Video on Thursday, Oct. 21, at the Magic Stick, 4140 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $16. For more info, call 313-833-9700.Jonathan Mahalak is a freelance writer. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org