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Blonde Redhead: In An Expression Of The Inexpressible


Blonde Redhead

Album: In An Expression Of The Inexpressible
Label: Touch And Go

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The No Wave scene sprung up in New York City in the late '70s, with its members—bands like the Contortions and DNA—flouting accepted musical conventions. Reliable rhythms were replaced with erratic beats; melodic guitar lines were junked in favor of screeching ones; and tuneful singing was thrown out altogether. It was a brave move, and 95% of it sounded just awful. Surprisingly, though, it never really died. Sonic Youth and Pussy Galore inherited the No Wave flag in the '80s and transformed it into something more expressive but no less jarring. Blonde Redhead carries on in the same tradition, but the band's aptly titled fourth album, In An Expression Of The Inexpressible, inherits No Wave's ability to annoy, while serving up none of its vision. While it's momentarily interesting, much of the album is so disjointed that it's a chore just to figure out what the hell is going on. The title track is a bizarre, herky-jerky punk-blues experiment augmented by virtually indecipherable Bjorkian howls. It's a fitting choice for a title track, though, as it's emblematic of Blonde Redhead's foremost problem: Despite its cachet of art-school concepts, the band can't be called unique. "Distilled" is indistinguishable from any number of Kim Gordon-led Sonic Youth songs, which makes it tolerable but less than inspiring, and the impossibly high-pitched, straining vocals on "Missile" make it an amusing vocal exercise, but not much more. A few oddly engaging experiments—notably the desperate, pulsing "Futurism vs. Passeism Part 2" and the "When The Levee Breaks"-inspired "Led Zep"—save the album from total disaster. But they hardly make it worth enduring.