Blonde Redhead: In an Expression of the Inexpressible

Blonde Redhead
In an Expression of the Inexpressible
Touch & Go

KAZU MAKINO, BLONDE Redhead's demure Japanese singer-guitarist, doesn't quite sing--she comes. Live, her orgasmic vocal tantrums lead to full-body seizures, but somehow, Makino manages to keep a woozy smirk on her face through it all. It's as if she doesn't know whether she's experiencing torture or rapture, and her shtick is both mesmerizing and arousing. (Online indie geeks have proudly confessed to masturbating during shows.) Sadly, Makino's wails aren't nearly as bombastic or scintillating on disc, and they definitely aren't enough to build a career on. Neither are the obvious Sonic Youth rip-offs that mark the band's guitarcentric sound.

On their fourth album, In an Expression of the Inexpressible, Blonde Redhead do have a fairly convincing excuse for their SY tics: SY drummer Steve Shelley released the first two Blonde Redhead albums on his Smells Like Records label, and the band received more than a few guitar (tuning) lessons from Thurston Moore. Early Blonde Redhead songs plodded, droned, and jangled rather aimlessly, but they were redeemed by Makino's sexy shrieks and the quirky rhythmic interplay between twin brothers (and Italian expatriates) Amedeo and Simone Pace (who play guitars and drums, respectively). On In an Expression of the Inexpressible, the band forsakes squeal 'n' chime meanderings and follows an even more obtuse path. The pieces avoid songwriting structures, toying with more abstract expressions: blippy loops ("Luv Machine"), snooty French rants ("Futurism vs. Passeism Part 2"), and battles between taut post-rock drumming and tinny computerized chirps ("l0"). The lyrics read like boffo tone poems, and even the vaguely catchy moments are garbled; the emotional peak of "Missile ++" comes when Amedeo sings this mangled couplet: "Twice the time you act all wrong/Fetish sober hole I'm wise."

Blonde Redhead are best when they're frenetic and horny, as on "This Is for Me and Everyone Knows." Still, that song's din of overdubbed chants and buzzing guitars pales in comparison to the band's creative/carnal high point, the must-hear "(I Am Taking Out My Eurotrash) I Still Get Rocks Off," from their second LP, 1995's La Mia Vita Violenta. On In an Expression, Makino sounds unfocused--and angry at herself for being so unsure of how to direct her boundless hormonal energy. And these unfocused experiments are enough to suggest that Sonic Youth rip-offs and indie sex appeal were as good as these guys could do.

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