Blonde Redhead at Band on the Wall

Johnny James, Managing Editor
Image supplied by Band on the Wall

Blonde Redhead at Band on the Wall, Manchester 19 August 2024 Entrance is free — Visit now

Mercurial NYC avant-rock vets Blonde Redhead are playing at Band on the Wall following the release of Sit Down for Dinner, their warmest, most welcoming record yet.

Blonde Redhead formed in New York in 1993, after the chance meeting of Japanese art student Kazu Makino and Maki Takahashi with Italian twins Simone and Amedeo Pace. Inspired by the squalling underground music that pulsed through the city at that time, the quartet’s angular noise rock quickly found a place on Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley’s label, Smells Like. Following their debut self-titled album, the band charted a different course, refining and redefining their artful chaos with releases on Touch & Go.

Not long after signing to 4AD on a worldwide deal in 2004, singer Kazu Makino suffered a near-fatal horse riding accident. This was to colour, both visually and lyrically, their debut for the label, Misery Is A Butterfly – an idiosyncratic dream pop album full of their most intimate, bittersweet, and romantic songs yet. Following the equally dreamy 23 (their most commercially successful album), the band made a move towards sensual electronic textures with Barragán (2014), before they receded from view.

But to the delight of fans, another act began in 2023, with the excellent Sit Down for Dinner. Written and recorded over a five-year period spanning New York City, upstate New York, Milan and Tuscany, Sit Down for Dinner is immaculately structured, imbued with sensitivity, clarity, and resolve. Throughout the album, the understated, visceral melodies create a foil to lyrics about the inescapable struggles of adulthood: communication breakdown in enduring relationships, wondering which way to turn, holding onto your dreams.

The luminous groove and chord progression of ‘Snowman’ (listen above) is one of many Blonde Redhead songs inspired by the attitude and breeziness of Brazilian experimental music. A brilliant turn of phrase melts its titular snowman into simply a man, struggling to express himself: “Do you feel alive or do you only fall? So like a no man, that you are.” Fellow single ‘Melody Experiment’ received its title when Makino “unlocked the song with the melody” in a moment of serendipity. “I was singing a little bit off, in a bluesy way, and I was so fascinated,” she says. “It feels quite new, like something I haven’t done before.”

There are some gems among the deeper cuts, too. The gorgeous ‘Rest of Her Life’ was penned as an elegy for Makino’s late horse, Harry, who she considered “almost like my soulmate”, while it’s vocal layers were inspired by the Swingle Singers’ a capella renditions of Bach. Amedeo takes most of the vocal duties on ‘If’, a dreamy exploration of the existential unease that can accompany middle age, struggling to orient oneself and locate where, and who, constitutes home.

It’s a wonderful album, and a testament to the unique internal logic Blonde Redhead have refined over their three-decade existence, one characterised by a commitment to following the creative path less travelled. We can’t wait to catch them in the relatively intimate confines of Band on the Wall.

Blonde Redhead at Band on the Wall, Manchester 19 August 2024 Entrance is free Visit now

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