Blonde Redhead

Fake Can Be Just as Good

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It seems like New York trio Blonde Redhead have been dogged with Sonic Youth comparisons since the day they formed years ago, taking their name from an old song by No New York faves DNA. Such yakking only grew louder when the group, then a quartet, signed with Steve Shelley's Smells Like label in 1994 for a pair of LPs, and then let the Sonic Youth drummer produce them. Three years down the road, it's a resemblance still firmly in place on Fake Can Be Just as Good, despite the group employing producer John Goodmanson and switching labels to Chicago's venerable, powerful Touch & Go. But if this stubborn outfit of two handsome Italian-Americans and a pretty Japanese-American doesn't care about being branded copycats, and it seems they don't, then neither should anyone else. Improving with each release, the solid, crashing duo of guitarists (and alternating singers) Kazu Makino and Amedeo Pace may borrow an ethic, an anti-pop stance, and atonal tension that's super-familiar, but the clean sound, direct attack, and straightforward, tense delivery are all their own. Moreover, there's plenty of room for further exploration in these dark, forbidding, tempest-ridden post-punk seas. In fact, when Makino and Pace get cold, claustrophobic, weird, wired, and chilling (with help from borrowed Unwound bassist Vern Rumsey) is when they also nearly explode in deep undercurrents: see the best things here, the quietly terrified "Symphony of Treble" and "Bipolar." And unlike 95 percent of all bands based on the New York noise tradition, Blonde Redhead never just grind like nails to chalkboards -- their well-produced sound is never annoying or unpleasant -- nor forget that music is supposed to have hooks, no matter how much it eschews obvious pop melodic conventions. Far from mere protégés of any band or scene, Blonde Redhead are a unique sub-branch all their own on a fertile tree.

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