Words About Music
Blonde Redhead “Barragán”
Blonde Redhead was always one of those bands that I’ve heard of that I never bothered listening to. Maybe it was because most of their albums received lukewarm reception, or maybe it was because I always confused them with the 4 Non Blondes. So when I started to really get into underground and independent music a couple years ago, I figured I’d finally give this band a listen. I listened to what was, at the time, their most recent album, 2010’s “Penny Sparkle.” It either blew my mind so hard I would die if I listened to it again, or it was a semi-decent noise pop record that I promptly forgot about. Probably the latter. Anyway, the New York trio is back with their ninth album “Barragán,” which takes the group into a more minimalistic direction. Gone are the noisier/shoegazier elements of their older stuff. They seem to have taken a new direction just for the sake of a new direction, because this album seems to lack coherency.
“Barragán” is a 10-track album with at least five good songs on here. I don’t think Blonde Redhead is a bad band at all. I just think they’ve sort of overstayed their welcome. They’ve put out some good records in the past, but it seems that those days are behind them. On this album, Blonde Redhead benefit from shorter songs like “Lady M” and “No More Honey,” but whenever they try to go for a long song or a song with more than one movement or section, it kind of falls on its face. It’s a real shame, too, because this album starts off so promisingly. The first three tracks are gorgeous and incredibly strong. After that, though, it gets sort of hit-and-miss. Mostly miss. Songs like “Cat on Tin Roof” and pretty much the entire second half of the album feel like failed experiments. It’s almost like the band’s manager said “Look, guys, you have to put out an album in three weeks. It’s gotta be at least ten songs and at least forty minutes. I know you only have five songs written and recorded, but you need to do something. Just… get on it. Please.”
This album could’ve been a really good EP. Instead, about half the album doesn’t really live up to the high standards set by the other five. I’m convinced that Blonde Redhead is capable of being a great band, it just sounds like they don’t really care enough. They have a distinct sound (especially Kazu Makino’s singing voice) but they go about using it in very uninteresting and sometimes offensively bad ways on “Barragán.” There’s some very cool sounds throughout this record, but it mostly leaves me with a weird feeling of “the good songs are really good, the bad songs are pretty bad.” This album lacks a sense of cohesiveness that makes long-running bands like Spoon so good time and time again.
I’m slightly convinced that this album was released to fulfill some sort of contractual obligation. It comes four years after their most recent album, but it doesn’t carry the sense of purpose and direction that you’d find on the new albums from Spoon, Death From Above 1979, and even Interpol. This album is odd and occasionally good, but sometimes it only feels like it’s good by accident. I’m fairly conflicted and greatly disappointed. I wouldn’t even be surprised if this is the band’s final album. I do hope they step their game up the next time around and we can all forget this ever happened.
SCORE – 4.5
FAVORITE TRACKS – Barragán, Lady M, Dripping, The One I Love, No More Honey