By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Misery’s songs are constructed and enhanced in very unstandard-rock-type ways, a bit more complex in how the parts are put together, far more complex in their effect on the passions. I said the songs have opened up like flowers; one explanation for this is the confluent recent discovery by Blonde Redhead, the High Llamas, David Byrne (who generated the tracks for his new Grown Backwards album by humming into a microcassette recorder) and a few others that the tyranny of the “groove” — building songs by piling parts on top of bass and drum tracks — has led to a very restrictive harmonic/melodic palette from which to choose. On Misery, adding the bass and string parts last makes for a crucial liberating of tone color, as if the songs were shot with 100 percent pure human blood. And the album just sounds different for its stormily imaginative use of instrumental counterpoint (keyboards, guitars, drums and strings), which isn’t too common in pop or rock music — if in fact that’s what Blonde Redhead is making.
“The three of us spent a lot of time figuring out the forms of the songs before we went into the studio. For the strings, we spent two days working with a violin player — and there’s only one person who did everything [he multitracked his parts]. We didn’t write down any charts; we had a computer there in our house, and we sang in what we like and we tried it, and then we added some other things to counter that part. We didn’t have time to try different options; I think some stuff could have been better, but I think when you do something for the first time you tend to be really naive about it, which is good.”
The moral of the story is twofold: 1) In much great music, emotions are not the point, exactly — at least not the ones we’re familiar with. And 2) musicians don’t always know what they’re doing till they’ve done it — and they’re probably better off not knowing. Proof of this is the special intuitive bond that exists between Kazu Makino and the brothers Pace, which actually transforms the music they make together.
“I react to them so much, especially to Kazu, when we work on melodies and harmonies,” said Amedeo. “We react to each other — really, it’s strange, in ways that we don’t even have any control over. I don’t know what I would do, how any of us would do, without each other.”
Blonde Redhead perform at the Henry Fonda Theater on Saturday, March 20.