I will never forget the first time I heard Blonde Redhead. It was their 1997 masterpiece, Fake Can Be Just As Good. The low-key introduction to "Kazuality" gave no warning of the auditory assault that followed. A wall of wailing, discordant guitars, alternative tuning and a relentless, driving beat left me hooked. It was noisy, loud and fabulous and it was easy to see why reviewers could not resist the temptation to compare New York trio Blonde Redhead to the kings of No Wave and disaffected rock, Sonic Youth.
I immediately bought the group's back catalogue and kept a close eye on Blonde Redhead over the course of the next thirteen years. Over the years, the band maintained their edgy, guitar-driven sound but seemed to mature somewhat when they moved to 4AD with their 2004 album, Misery Is a Butterfly.
Blonde Redhead returned in 2010 with Penny Sparkle, and I can scarcely recall a time when an album has left me so divided . It is certainly their most accessible album to date, and the opening track "Here Sometimes" is melodic. But these are words I never thought I'd use to describe a Blonde Redhead album. When I first heard Blonde Redhead, I took to thrashing about my apartment listening to it and I recommended it to everybody I could possibly think of. Penny Sparkle does not inspire those feelings in me.
Perhaps I should mention at this point that I never bought their last album, 23, because it seemed like too much of a departure in style. Blonde Redhead had adopted a decidedly dream pop sound, and this is evident again on "Not Getting There", the second track on Penny Sparkle, which would fit perfectly on a Lush album. I'm a fan of dream pop but I like my noise to be be noise, and my initial feeling on listening to this album was of disappointment.