Saturday, March 24, 2012

March 24: Blonde Redhead, "Melody Of Certain Damaged Lemons"

Artist: Blonde Redhead
Album: Melody Of Certain Damaged Lemons
Year: 2000
Label: Touch & Go

While there are many essential elements that need to be in play to create a truly unforgettable album, few are more essential than having a unique and perfectly crafted mood.  In fact, if the mood is right on an album from end to end, it can often overshadow shortfalls in other areas, as exceptional deployments of mood can "take" a listener away.  Yet countless bands seem to ignore this core aspect of music, and this enables those groups that appreciate such elements to become far easier to identify.  With this in mind, one can argue that over the past twenty years, the idea of mood has been largely ignored, leading to bands depending more on "studio magic" than actually creating via their instruments.  Thankfully, there are a handful of bands that are still striving to create complete musical works, and there are few groups over the past two decades that have released as sonically stunning a catalog as one finds in the music of Blonde Redhead.  Though they are often labeled as "indie rock," the truth of the matter is that once hearing their music, it is quickly clear that there is no category that can accurately describe their music.  From hard rock to more delicate, almost ambient numbers, the group knows no musical boundaries, and their true musical genius is perhaps most obvious on their absolutely mind-blowing 2000 release, Melody Of Certain Damaged Lemons, and as a whole, one would be hard pressed to find a more complete and truly perfect record in recent history.

Within moments of the album beginning, the band deploys what builds to be one of the most distinctive, yet unquestionably poppy sounds ever recorded, and it is this ability to be "artsy," whilst still making catchy music that sets Blonde Redhead so far apart from their peers.  The subtle, almost dancing guitar riff from Amedeo Pace on "In Particular "quickly captivates the listener, as there is "something" within the sound that is impossible to ignore.  It is the way in which almost every riff he deploys on the album has an underlying sense of tension or nervousness, yet is simultaneously upbeat that makes it so unique, and this persists throughout the entire record.  Complimenting this tone, the sometimes stutter-step, sometimes pulverizing drumming from Simone Pace is absolutely perfect, and the fills that he drops throughout the tracks only highlight the fierce, yet delicate balance Blonde Redhead manages to achieve all across Melody Of Certain Damaged Lemons.  Though these two pieces work brilliantly with one another, they are pushed to an entirely different level via the pulsing, dark keyboards that weave in and out on the songs, and it is this element that drives home the mood and overall impact of the bands' unique musical approach.  Whether the song in question has a faster pace, yet manages to retain an almost schizophrenic quality, or is firmly rooted in one tone, it is the diversity Blonde Redhead shows at every turn that is nothing short of stunning to experience, and one cannot help but get wrapped up in the music, as it swirls and pounds, getting deeper as the album progresses.

However, while the musical elements on Melody Of Certain Damaged Lemons find unique ways to blend together, it is the contrasting voice of Kazu Makino that proves to be the key element to the overall impact of every song.  The way in which her singing quickly cuts into the tracks is absolutely perfect, and yet it is the fact that she never needs to or tries to overpower the rest of the elements that sets the band so far beyond their peers.  Working all across the vocal scale, Makino's voice is impossible to forget, and the uniquely melancholy mood of the songs are pushed to a level all their own with the melancholy mood she brings via her vocal performances.  Even during the sections when she delivers an almost breathless sound, she never fails to be anything short of phenomenal in her execution of the lyrics.  Yet it is also the words that Makino sings throughout the album that give the overall experience much of its personality, as one can argue that "In Particular" is one of the most uniquely "self aware" tracks ever recorded.  That is to say, one can sense that the band new just how captivating the music they were playing was, and there is absolute perfection when she sings lines like, "... lying on my back. I heard music, felt unsure and catastrophic, had to tell myself it's only blows my mind, but it's like that..."  These words manage to capture the mood of their song perfectly, and the soaring, yet measured manner with which Kazu Makino delivers them serves as a magnificent finishing touch to the mastery that is "In Particular."

In nearly every aspect, Melody Of Certain Damaged Lemons is about exceeding or completely defying expectations, and one can even see these elements at play within the "external" factors on the album.  Though it seems a stark departure from the sounds with which he is usually associated, the entire Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons album was produced by none other than Guy Picciotto, and  the fact that someone so closely linked with the most influential hardcore bands in history was able to help the band craft such a uniquely delicate sound is a testament to his boundless musical abilities, and yet one can also look to his influence on the record as the source of the "edge" that can be felt throughout the entire album.  Furthermore, when one considers that there were only three musicians on the record, the massive sound and mood that they create becomes all the more impressive.  Far beyond a simple label of "indie" or "art" rock, Blonde Redhead's Melody Of Certain Damaged Lemons is a work of musical genius that instantly sets them into their own musical grouping.  While one can hear elements of bands ranging from Sonic Youth to Björk to Joy Division within their music, there is no question at any point that their sound is completely original, and it was this record that finally separated the band from their predecessors.  Presenting a mood and sonic expertise that is far beyond that of any other band in history, Blonde Redhead's 2000 album, Melody Of Certain Damaged Lemons, rises above the others and remains one of the most unforgettable and absolutely magnificent achievements in all of music history.

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