Adrian Cooper has been unwell

Old reviews that are no longer available online, or from sites that no longer exist. The pen is dead, long live the camera.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Blonde Redhead
the Scala, London

It’s nights like these that make it all seem worthwhile. I don’t really know how it happened but I spent the last nine months in some sort of musical coma, oblivious to all that was going on around me, with no idea what was happening, when albums were being released or who was on tour.

I’d become disillusioned with gigs and was finding more comfort in James Ellroy novels than in smoky, dank disgusting venues with shit sound and overpriced drinks. Then Blonde Redhead finally came to town. Having spent so much time on the fringes, I was almost unsure how to react. It had been so long since I’d felt the excitement, the anticipation of knowing that I was going to able to go and watch a band that I totally love.

And then, as the staccato twin riff of ‘Melody Of Certain Three’ kicked in, it was as if I’d just had witnessed an epiphany. This was what I had been missing. It wasn’t that I was just burnt out, or had seen too many bands. I’d just seen so many merely average bands, that I’d almost forgotten what it was like to experience such brilliance, such genius first-hand.

It’s there in the way that they fuse the art-rock styling of Sonic Youth with the fervour of Fugazi, a perfect mix of poise and passion. Music that not only sends shivers down your spine but raises the hair on your head and sends the endorphins coursing through your mind. And they don’t just pull off such a feat once, the exhilaration builds with every song, from the interlocked guitars of ‘Futurism Vs. Passéism’, through a super-charged ‘Maddening Crowd’ and into an especially sparse and haunting rendition of ‘In Particular’.

They even get away with an encore of ‘In An Expression Of The Inexpressible’, on the record the only of their songs that doesn't induce a feeling of blissful awe. Live, however, it’s a twisting spiralling juggernaut of a song, as Kazu Makino saves her best Yoko Ono howl for the finale, screaming her near inarticulate desperation over Amedeo Pace’s jagged, bruising guitar hooks. It shouldn’t work, it’s just too far from what even the more musically liberated onlookers would describe as accessible, or maybe even listenable, but tonight it’s the most mesmerising climax that you can imagine.

Blonde Redhead have set the standard by which I will judge every other band this year. As much as I’d like to proven wrong, there are few bands whom I can imagine managing to scale such heights.

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