The arty, experimental no wave quality of Blonde Redhead’s early material has given way to a style more sultry, sexy, breathy—more representative of the dark disco that’s been wearing out its welcome as of late. And it’s been a gradual process. The effect isn’t much different from the change in Chromatics after their acquisition of a female vocalist (a period rung in with a relatively dull cover of “Running Up that Hill,” natch).

Kazu Makino is less shrill and more stylish here than in past vocal appearances, and the increasingly glamorous approach to Blonde Redhead’s music, grown stronger over the last few albums, is at its height—essentially “Silently” off 2007’s 23 in multiple.

There is nothing much original about Penny Sparkle, and the angular guitar and interesting moods the band once produced are officially lost. This record is about controlled mood, and singing prettily, and catching up to a trend—the latter a sign of a band that is no longer relevant. In its own right, Penny Sparkle is actually a beautiful and cleanly produced record, perhaps influenced somewhat by Bjork’s Homogenic; however, it’s the production that overpowers the interesting musicianship that the band once pulled off, and will keep Penny Sparkle from becoming a memorable high point in Blonde Redhead’s career. [4AD]

-China Bialos



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