Fingertips Explores the Archives: Blonde Redhead - Misery is a Butterfly
Jeremy from Fingertips joins us every Friday as he scours the betterPropaganda archives, highlighting gems buried a few years back in our database.
This week we bring you "Misery is a Butterfly" from Blonde Redhead.
The simple, repeated piano melody that opens this song is also what holds it together--otherwise this almost implausible pastiche might fly apart from the repellent forces of its varied pieces.There are mournful strings, there's a dance beat struggling to establish itself, there are breathy-emotive vocals from guitarist Kazu Makino, there are Rachmaninovian chords, there's a ghostly synthesizer; but time and again we get back to the piano riff, and everything somehow seems all right after all. Weird stuff goes on below the surface--the strings, for instance, often threaten to dissolve in dissonance, and lord knows what the bass player is doing. And no, it's not remotely possible to understand what Makino is saying, but damn if she doesn't sound a bit like Kate Bush's young Asian cousin, especially during the twenty or so seconds in the last third of the song when the piano completely disappears. Just when things have just about fallen apart--there, at 4:08, the piano refrain rescues us. Phew. Blonde Redhead is a veteran NYC-based trio that has gravitated over time from a Sonic Youth-style dissonance to a lusher sound that early fans of the band might not like very much. Me, I'm kind of intrigued by the still-somewhat-strange-ness of the whole thing. The song is the title track from the group's sixth CD, released in 2004 on 4AD Records.
- Jeremy Schlosberg