Blonde Redhead - Masculin Feminin 4xLP
Label: Numero Group
On the heels of their deep dive into the Unwound discography, the Numero Group set their sights on that of Blonde Redhead with Masculin Feminin, a 4xLP, 37-track box set comprising the group's first two releases – an eponymous debut and its follow-up, La Mia Vita Violenta, both released in 1995 on early BR partisan Steve Shelley's Smells Like Records label – along with contemporaneous singles, demos, and radio spots. The apocryphal BR origin story: Milanese twins Simone and Amedeo Pace arrive in Boston to study at the famed Berklee College of Music, quickly begin to loathe both, move to NYC (where they cement a core lineup of i fratelli Pace plus Kyoto-born art student Kazu Makino), and begin a steady climb through sonically youthful guitar squall to polyrhythmic, libidinal art-pop. While Blonde Redhead finds the band more or less squarely under the considerable sway of Shelley's main gig ("I Don't Want U," "Astro Boy," "Swing Pool,"), this point tends to be overstated. As much anchored by S. Pace's masterful, propulsive drumming as buffeted by Makino's startling, razor-sharp gulps and smeared vocals, La Mia Vita Violenta – which bears a dedication to recurring BR avatar Pier Paolo Pasolini – goes a long way toward establishing the template that reached its apotheosis with 2003's dense, hazy trauma-pop masterpiece Misery Is A Butterfly ("U.F.O.," "Down Under," "Bean").
In fact, the very title of Numero's inaugural BR retrospective, cribbed from Godard's 1966 critique of pop commercialism and affixed to a band whose name pays tribute to a trio of superlative NYC no-wavers, neatly encapsulates this progression. Less the children of Marx and Coca-Cola than Morricone and post-Crutchfield DNA, Masculin Feminin captures the compelling first steps of one of contemporary indie's most restless and enduring outfits.