Blonde Redhead – Masculin Féminin

2016 Numero Group

As what was considered the “cutting edge” had become soulless corporate schlock, Blonde Redhead’s debut in 1995 couldn’t have arrived at a better time for what was then considered the alternative. For one, this New York City trio could have early hit the road to become the next big (mainstream) thing in a post-Cobain world only to lose their way; but instead, they rung out as an experimental unit collectively taking their broad approach with both intoxicating post-punk extravagance AND luxuriant lo-fi minimalism, rolling out exotic aggression, reflecting The Big Apple’s often tumultuous and maddening savoir-faire.

And of course we go back to the time of arrival. It was when alternative rock had become slicker entity with dollar signs blinding the eyes of independent artists and labels, nevermind how big of a beacon major labels had shined those images of money bags. Blonde Redhead showed us that new blood was vital to keep the heart rate moving in the sub-scene that was built by Fugazi, The Jesus Lizard, and Jawbox among others, Beyond what R.E.M. & The Replacements started. They continued the tradition of what a loud guitar could do; feedback, speaker blowing distortion, and whatever joyful noise could be made. Yet they counteracted that with more melodious, yet aggressive subdued and occasionally morose grooves across the six strings reflecting upon shoegaze as opposed to hardcore. This sound led their inking a deal with Steve Shelley’s (Sonic Youth) Smells Like Records; an appropriate home for them where the door was opened by someone from one of the groups that had laid the foundation for noise-rock.

Long out of print have been their first two albums, both their self titled debut and La Mia Vita Violenta, along with 7″ singles, demos, & live radio cuts. Now resurrected in the form of a 4 LP vinyl box set with a 2 CD set and download available, you hear the dawn of one of indie rock’s most hallowed groups. Musically inventive, reflecting say on The Pixies, they often went from loudly belligerent verses to restrained choruses, and vice versa as framework for their multi-polar euphoria. It’s tracks like “Astro Boy” and “Mama Cita” where the mold is shaped for clangorous tunage, but as mellow-minded cuts including “Harmony” & “10 Feet High” rear their heads, an evolution has been underway in a short period of time;  they never came across as a band that was simply going to stand around; just listen to “Valentine,” it echoes the sound of Mark Robinson’s Teen Beat label that ushered in a more minimalist impression of jangle-pop. Still with all of the music, all the sides, from whatever release or performance, everything holds up. Everything from hearing the tape hiss during quitet parts, to the dual male/female vocals, to the primal approach, the music consciously beholds this collective of instinctive D.I.Y. ideology.

Their sound would later find itself relocating into more of a dream pop aura as they had a string of albums on the 4AD label. Nevertheless, Masculin Féminin is a snapshot in time, to where indie rock had that true spirit of independence where without the Internet and social networking, there was a certain vibe in the air that really connected with the listener in a more realistic and organic way as opposed to letting data of some sorts be the dictator.

Copyright & Publishing: 2016 Tommy Hash for Ytsejam.com

 

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