NPR Song Of The Day: Blonde Redhead, ‘Dr. Strangeluv’

Blonde Redhead's 23 is out now.
Blonde Redhead’s 23 is out now.

Wrote a short piece on Blonde Redhead’s new song “Dr. Strangeluv” from its new album 23 for NPR’s Song of the Day. Listen to the song here.

A Bracing Moment of Charming Melancholy

“Dr. Strangeluv” by Blonde Redhead from 23

Blonde Redhead’s members produced their seventh album (23) themselves, in the process showcasing their ongoing attention to nuanced detail and desire to evolve. The work of Japanese singer Kazu Makino and Italian twin brothers Simone and Amedeo Pace, 23 may be their most confidently accessible album to date, but they lose none of their earlier discs’ charm, injecting subtle ornamentation that makes the new set stand out.

Mixing the moody cinematic quality of abstract film scores with pop melodies and compelling chord progressions, Blonde Redhead’s music lands somewhere between the surreal wash of My Bloody Valentine and the dark lushness of numerous Britpop bands. The bright guitar sounds that open “Dr. Strangeluv” could just as well be a chord progression from early Radiohead. The song’s humming synths and warped guitars create a mellow sound that, when accompanying an eclectic mash of percussion (bongos, wind chimes, claves, maracas, cowbell and even vibraslap), allow the song’s eclectic textures to reveal themselves slowly.

And yet, as Makino’s breathy, sultry voice slides in — “Looking everywhere, I see nothing but people” — her vocals seize the spotlight immediately. Makino’s graceful, fragile cadence displays a sense of charming, majestic melancholy. Amid her heavily filtered backing-vocal loops, the inflection changes slightly at the chorus, as she sings, “Hey, Dr Strangeluv / So sad, isn’t it true? / You left without goodbye.” A bracing moment, it establishes a new high-watermark for a band that’s spent years pushing the boundaries of its creativity.

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