Album review: Blonde Redhead – Penny Sparkle (4AD)

No wave no more: American three-piece borrow a trick or three from Scandi-pop

It seems unthinkable now that [a]Blonde Redhead[/a] used to be derided for sounding too much like [a]Sonic Youth[/a] (whose drummer [b]Steve Shelley[/b] signed them to his [b]Smells Like Records[/b] label for their self-titled debut album in 1995). No wave is a distant memory on [b]‘Penny Sparkle’[/b], whose gothic gloss bears the fingerprints of producers [b]Alan Moulder[/b] ([a]Depeche Mode[/a]) and [b]Van Rivers & The Subliminal Kid[/b] ([a]Fever Ray[/a]). Twin brothers [b]Amadeo and Simone Pace[/b] and [b]Kazu Makino[/b] have accordingly served up an album of Swedish pop but without any of its saccharine flourishes. The gloom of [b]‘Will There Be Stars’[/b] sounds like [a]Yeasayer[/a] would if someone mercifully stamped on their panpipes, while [b]‘Everything Is Wrong’[/b] sees vocals from [b]Kazu Makino[/b] open up into shimmering pop. Deft production lends this album space and stateliness at a time when everyone seems content to scuff their feet along to lo-fi, and begs the question, why? Though lacking standout tracks,

this is an icy masterclass in how synths should sound.

[b]Hazel Sheffield[/b]

Click here to get your copy of Blonde Redhead’s ‘Penny Sparkle’ from Rough Trade Shops.