Shepherd's Bush Empire
Alt. rockers Blonde Redhead tend to get a few dodgy looks and catty words from alt. fans and critics, cast-off as a pale imitation of Sonic Youth and other bands that really do know what they’re doing with fuck-off huge guitar squalls. Taking that view though, you could just as easily identify SY as a knock-off amalgam of Glenn Branca, Arto Lindsay and Patti Smith – the Pick Apart The Influences game never stops and for every pedant, there’s a few more who are ready to take things as they were intended. Nearly two thousand more in fact and tonight they’ve filed into Shepherds Bush Empire for one of Blonde Redhead’s (quite rare) visits to London.
A panel of photographers’ umbrella screens forms the background, at first delicately lit with faux-early electric lights, then beaten to a luminous pulp by incandescent flashes and pole-mounted lasers, the energy of which (perhaps deliberately) contrasts with and compensates for the band’s meditative stage presence. The set is heavy on new album ‘Penny Sparkle’, a big ol’ record and a neat crystallization of their previous excursions into electronica and dream-pop. For it, they roped-in 4AD favourite Alan Moulder and Fever Ray’s Subliminal Kid. One’s done a wonderful job of Depeche Mode-ing them by 20% and the other, well… they look and sound a bit like Fever Ray now. They might have just sent some free ammunition to the haters but, more than anything, Blonde Redhead are admirably longstanding and the strength of their back-catalogue gives them a charm and a cruising nonchalance with which they can ride over criticism.
By Edgar Smith
Originally published in issue 22 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. October 2010