Numero Group, 2016
Review by Kent Manthie
After many years together, on and off, Numero Group is putting out Masculin Feminin, an anthology of BR’s brightly shining moments, e.g., their first two LPs, put together here, plus a number of previously unreleased material, B-sides, demo versions, outtakes, and so on.
There is a likeness here with Sonic Youth. Listening to Masculin Feminin (which, I must confess, is my first exposure to Blonde Redhead), about 1/3 of the way in I started hearing stuff that reminded me a lot of Sonic Youth, especially their mid-late 80s as well as the late 90s period: musically innovative and iconoclastic. “Swing Pool” is one example of this. Both the guitars sound a bit like Thurston and Lee jamming together and the singing sounded, at times, not unlike Kim Gordon.
Another example of how Sonic Youth seems to have rubbed off on BR is “U.F.O.” the way it starts off with this Sonic Youth-sounding guitar opener; however, “U.F.O.” soon settles into something else altogether: a rock-steady beat that pounds out a tight rhythm for a great tune. But, out of this mix, comes the, in my opinion, too short, but lush, quiet, beautiful, “Girl Boy”, showing, for one, that BR isn’t beholden to a one-dimensional sound; a cardboard cutout of their influences. “Young Neil” has a nice touch to it, as does “Amescream”.
If you’re already a hardcore Blonde Redhead fan, you’ll probably already have the two separately released albums represented here: their eponymous debut and La Mia Vita Violenta, which is what Masculin Feminin is, for the most part. But, to make this more than merely a re-release, Masculin Feminin has a big helping of a variety of singles, B-sides, outtakes, radio performances, demos, etc. So this album is a great place to start for those who are new to Blonde Redhead (I do vaguely remember having had one album by Blonde Redhead, something I found at my local library, then decided to check out and, of course, rip it to my WMP. Not sure which album it was; I’m thinking it was probably their self-titled debut, but, then again, it could’ve been La Mia Vita Violenta. I just can’t remember! But, Masculin Feminin is really, my first real exposure to Blonde Redhead and I like it. As for the similarity to Sonic Youth in some places, BR really has a sound all their own. What they’ve gotten out of Sonic Youth – as well as other bands, no doubt- has only added value to their own identity! –KM.