Tuesday, December 19, 2023

On the Frolicsome “Before,” Experimental Trio Blonde Redhead Celebrate Youthful Intransigence

The death of Joan Didion in late 2021 spawned innumerable thinkpieces and essays seeking to both track the influence of Didion’s writing and style, and lionize the already-lionized American author. It was a predictable and totally appropriate exercise. “No one essay writer, except James Baldwin and George Orwell, has spawned more imitators,” Jay Caspian King wrote in the New York Times, arguing that Didion “inspired at least two generations of thieving impostors,” including himself, “to break into her life’s work, strip it down to the studs and decorate it with their own boring neuroses.”

Add me, with this meandering introduction to a song review, to the list of imitators.

And add Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino to that list — though no one would dare call the NYC-formed experimental indie band’s or Makino’s neuroses “boring.” A press release announcing a due date for Sit Down for Dinner, the trio’s first new long player in seven years, explains that the album’s title was pulled from a passage The Year of Magical Thinking, Didion’s 2005 memoir about a year of grieving after the death of her husband.

Like any good essayist, Makino has proven herself a deft observer, her lyrics cutting through and providing a sense of clarity among the complex and mercurial sonic palette that has been a hallmark of the group’s nearly three decades of output. On the frolicsome “Before,” Makino writes from the perspective of a youthful braggart, who is phlegmatic about questions of existentialism.

“I don’t need to see, I already know. I can tell you I’ve seen it all before,” Kazu sings over a playful soundscape of polyphonic guitar figures, ambient strings and an irregular smattering of auxiliary percussion pieces — i.e. the kind of enjoyably unconventional soundscape for which the band is known.

“Some children seem quite knowing as if they remember their past lives… or at least that’s the impression I get,” Makino says in the press release about “Before.” “The song is a sort of celebration of that kind of quality in a young person.”

“Before” follows June’s “Melody Experiment” and May’s “Snowman,” two dynamic songs that will be included on Sit Down for Dinner, which is due out September 29 on Section1.Stream “Before

You can hear new music from Blonde Redhead, and music from local, regional, national and international artists on our music discovery station The Independent 89.9 HD4. And you can follow our Fresh Squeeze playlist on Spotify to stream all the best new music, updated every month.

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