Here’s an excellently in-depth archival release for Blonde Redhead, one of 90’s New York’s finest outfits. Masculin Feminin contains the band’s first two albums in full, plus all the surrounding extra material from the time (singles, radio sessions, demos etc.). Also, for a little perspective, two in-depth essays and lots of exclusive photographs. 2CD / 4LP sets on Numero Group.
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There’s gritty and then there’s New York’s Blonde Redhead gritty. These early recordings from the band have been let loose from the ‘90s dungeon and are fair bursting with barely pent-up energy. This vital set brings together their first two albums for Smells Like records, plus singles, demos and radio spots from the era. So we have tracks from their self-titled debut album such as ‘Sciuri Sciura’ -- the title may be nonsensical by the way, or possibly Esperanto mixed in and muddying the stream of consciousness -- whatever, it’s a catchy tune.
Then there are the quiet-loud-quiet dynamics of ‘Astro Boy’ and ‘Mama Cita’ with Kazu Makino’s brilliantly raw and husky-to-plaintive-to-screaming vocals and ridiculously jagged guitars. From their second album La Mia Vita comes the fractious ‘Bean’ with its patient, prolonged and tense build up before those curiously comforting vocals again. ‘...I Still Get Rocks Off’ is suitably thrilling, ‘Violent Life’ is incredibly tautly-wound and those guitar arrangements are so addictive. ‘10 Feet High’ is sweet and sour and all the best elements of indie-rock thrown into one crazy yet cohesive mix. If you like Sonic Youth, etc.
The 4-track demos are surprisingly accomplished; ‘Woody’ has a remastered sheen which takes off none of the rawness of the band but lends it a shoegaze feel. ‘It Was All So Sudden’ shows the band off at their most inventive. Early single ‘Amescream’ has an overly-trebly quality which lends additional charm to the noise. Life-affirming stuff and a brilliant compilation.
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