RATE PENNY SPARKLE:
Listen to Blonde Redhead’s 1995 self-titled debut. Note its downright debauchery, punk rock attitude, and experimental use of guitar distortion, especially for that era. Now try on their eighth full length, Penny Sparkle. Sounds pretty contrasting, like hearing All Eyez On Me after For Emma, Forever Ago. But for a real patriot of music who fancies synth pop and trip hop as much as progressive, Penny Sparkle delivers gratification of an equal caliber. Though many die-hard fans were dismal about 2007’s 23, where the usually eccentric outfit sound warm and cordial, the altering moods and sparkles of this record will ultimately sway their convictions. Enlisting the Subliminal Kid (Fever Ray, Glasser) as producer, the trio of Kazu Makino and Simone & Amedeo Pace were keen on creating an entirely new sound on this LP and they’ve succeeded.
On the first few Blonde Redhead records, Makino’s icy vocals could draw comparisons to Bjork, or even The Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan. On Penny Sparkle, she sounds like Karin Dreijer Andersson of The Knife. There are undeniable traces of Subliminal Kid all over this album; the savvy electro pop “Oslo” will likely appear on disco blog spots, title track “Penny Sparkle” adopts Fever Ray’s fondness for the offbeat and nostalgic. There are engaging moments that don’t conform to electronica; “Will There Be Stars” sounds like classic Thievery Corporation, “My Plants Are Dead” comparable to Beach House, “Everything is Wrong” reminiscent of the warped dreaminess of Melody Of Certain Damaged Lemons, a pinnacle moment in the band’s career. Lead single “Here Sometimes” is the most accessible Blonde Redhead has ever sounded in their 17 years together; a gloomy synth overtone accompanying Makino’s soft articulation “Now it’s day and I am dreaming/A man walks by I want to be his wife/I’m only here sometimes/Under the tree of life.” Though it appears they have basically abandoned instruments, the group is, for their first time ever, creating significant palpable music.
From dream pop abiding hipsters, to loungers who adore getting stoned to trip hop, to the goths who will appreciate the murky bass lines and sedated electronic scores of this record, Penny Sparkle is repertoire to be loved by all, one that will seriously broaden the BR fan-base. It is a validation of Blonde Redhead’s commitment to the avant-garde, even if it is ridiculously easy to listen to.