Blonde Redhead 
Misery is a Butterfly
/4ad; 2004/



more info:

A friend of mine, one of those internet nerds constantly looking for news from their favourite bands, told me that Misery is a Butterfly was supposed to be a concept album dealing with Kazu falling heavily from a horseback and breaking her back, and about the ensuing healing process. If it does not seem to be a concept album, this unfortunate accident seems nonetheless to be the central theme so let’s not be surprised by the spleen-esque dimension of the album.

Misery is a Butterfly is probably Blonde Redhead’s saddest one. This overall spleen-esque mood is backed up by a peculiar decadent aspect illustrated by the front cover which fails in being beautiful but which seems to echo 18th and 19th French literature that the band regularly refers to in interviews. Horny minds would probably add that their live performance is decadent as well, Italian twin brothers and a foxy Japanese girl playing in a triangle without paying much attention to the audience… However, I have the strange impression that the album is not as sad as I feel. For example, in ‘Messenger’ one of the melodies is so close to Françoise Hardy’s ‘Comment vous dire adieu?’ (meaning: how to say goodbye to you) that it automatically amplifies its tone concerning French listeners.

Misery is a Butterfly undeniably pursues the quest for refined arrangements that has been started in Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons. If Amadeo’s songs are my favourite ones here, let’s recognize that there is a charming eerie cinematic atmosphere in most of Kazu’s songs. ‘Elephant Woman’ seems to tell the story of the accident. ‘I shed no tears for broken me’ delivers Kazu in an exhausted voice. The melancholy music sounds like an epiphany while the album has just started off. Her songs are quite hypnotic (‘Anticipation’, ‘Magic Mountain’, ‘Misery’) and therefore reach a cinematic quality.

Misery is a Butterfly is not just the second part to Melody of certain… . If there are obvious similarities in terms of sound and flourishes and if the French decadent atmosphere of Melodie Citronique ep carries on (reference to Hardy), Blonde Redhead has not forgotten their guitars in a remote closet. Of course you won’t be listening to dissonant catchy noisy-pop tracks which worked wonders in Fake can be Just as Good but unsettled songs definitely ring a bell. Amadeo’s voice epitomizes weariness and disarray as it already did in La Mia Vita Violenta. ‘Doll is mine’, ‘Falling Man’, ‘Maddening cloud’ and even Kazu’s final song are close to the dubious atmosphere of ‘Violent life’, ‘UFO’ or ‘Bean’.

‘Maddening cloud’ perfectly generates the feeling of helplessness you feel when you’re talking with someone who’s been injured, you want to help them but you just can’t and they feel you don’t get anything. ‘And she says I can’t feel my toes & she must be alone and far too cold & he stares like he doesn’t see…’ The music abounding in arrangements really conveys this feeling of helplessness, a feeling that is constantly increasing because of lucidity. This feeling eventually gives way to confusion. In my humble opinion, it’s the best song on the album along with ‘falling Man’ & ‘Doll is mine’ whose melancholy registers are quite similar even if they convey doubts and regrets rather than helplessness. Amadeo sings ‘I feel fine’ in ‘Doll is mine’ but the following lyrics make it sound like a lie, a lie to comfort someone else. ‘I must have seen too much skin, much more than I needed to, much more than I wanted to dream, I must have felt so much pain, it’s funny how some things do remain, it isn’t true that things do change…’

During this hard time they have developed a personal metaphorical vocabulary - butterfly, broken wings, magic mountain, etc.- which seems very Japanese in the charming duet ‘Pink love’. This undeniably adds a cryptic quality to the overall melancholy tone of Misery is a Butterfly. This cryptic feeling makes me think that it is a slow-burner and if I’m already sure that it won’t be my favourite BR album, the cd will however regularly spin in my player.

-SEB ‘A horse trod on my toes when I was four’ WOOd.

/apr 15th 2004/