Blonde Redhead, the low-key juggernaut of no-wave, has put out three works (beginning with 1997's Fake Can Be Just As Good) that were wonderfully whole and edgy. Once introduced to their anxious melodies and shrill vocals, your return was pretty much guaranteed. But there is reason to fear Misery Is a Butterfly on BR's new label, 4AD, precisely because it's a label with other acts (e.g., This Mortal Coil) that have none of Blonde Redhead's angles and rough tears. After a listen, our fear was justified, if only somewhat. Track one, "Elephant Woman," is lush, yes, but not quite rich, at least not when compared with the depth of the previous album. "Maddening Cloud" and "Equus," despite strong vocals, feel filed-down. Misery as a whole feels more ambient, more generic than past albums. This all sounds more negative than intended; BR has once again put out a fine album. It's just a softer, weaker effort in a career full of strong, aggressive, high-pitched brooding. Given their spectacular previous efforts, it's hard not to feel disappointed.
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