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 Steve Shelley signed them to his Smells Like Records label for their self-titled debut album in 1995). No wave is a distant memory on ‘Penny Sparkle’, whose gothic gloss bears the fingerprints of producers Alan Moulder ([a]Depeche Mode[/a]) and Van Rivers & The Subliminal Kid ([a]Fever Ray[/a]). Twin brothers Amadeo and Simone Pace and Kazu Makino have accordingly served up an album of Swedish pop but without any of its saccharine flourishes. The gloom of ‘Will There Be Stars’ sounds like [a]Yeasayer[/a] would if someone mercifully stamped on their panpipes, while ‘Everything Is Wrong’ sees vocals from Kazu Makino 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.

Hazel Sheffield

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

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