What's new is better

Blonde Redhead at Paradise Rock Club, January 20, 2008
By WILL SPITZ  |  January 22, 2008
BUTTCHEEK BARING? The crowd was buzzing about Blonde Redhead’s new material as well as
Kazu Makino’s daringly short white dress.

The most remarkable thing about Blonde Redhead’s sold-out show at the Paradise Sunday — aside from singer/keyboardist/guitarist Kazu Makino’s buttcheek-baring white dress — was how much better the songs from their newest full-length, 23 (4AD), sounded against the old ones. Not many bands can say their seventh album is their best, but if this somewhat uneven 90-minute set was any indication, Makino and her bandmates — singer/guitarist Amedeo Pace and his twin brother, Simone, on drums — have made their magnum opus 14 years into their career.

Whether she was sitting at her synthesizer or shimmying across the stage, Makino spent most of the show in an eyes-closed trance, as if her mind were on another planet. And the crowd seemed to be right there with her during new songs like the driving, delay-drenched “Spring and by Summer Fall” and the trip-hoppy “SW.” Blonde Redhead somehow managed to re-create the album’s sonic vastness, its many layers of synthetic and organic sound, something Pitchfork had referred to as “high-gloss, ornamental swirlies and lacquered doilies” — not an easy task for a three-piece. The huge, sweeping My Bloody Valentine guitar of 23’s title track — the last song of the pre-encore set and the show’s peak — was so enveloping, it was almost disorienting, in the best possible way; such transcendent moments were offset, however, by back-to-reality yawners like the listless “Melody,” from 2004’s Misery Is a Butterfly. They closed with “10,” a repetitive, krautrocky song from their 1998 album In anExpression of the Inexpressible. Like much of their music, this one is rife with tension; unlike the newer songs, it offers no release, no catharsis. Instead, it devolved into a percussion breakdown and petered out — an anticlimax, after which the band said a quick thank-you and walked off stage.

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