Blonde Redhead, “Sit Down For Dinner”
By Elle Carroll · September 26, 2023 Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)

The things that keep a rock band together for decades at a time are no different than the things that keep any of group people together in the long term: Shared goals, a modicum of patience, a willingness to forgive minor offenses, a reasonable amount of chemistry, and decent food eaten together. None of this is a revelation, nor is it new. In fact, the “eating together” bit is particularly old, seeing how archaeologists keep digging up centuries-old taverns and public eateries in Iraq, amid the ruins of Pompeii, and on Scottish islands. People need people, and people need to eat. Thus humanity keeps sitting down to dine together, the members of Blonde Redhead very much included.

Not counting the 2016 early career compilation Masculin Féminin, Sit Down For Dinner is the band’s first record since 2014’s comparatively sparse Barragán was met with mixed reviews, which is to say Exclaim! went with “grower” whereas Pitchfork called it a “cold fish.” Sit Down For Dinner is a proudly simple and deeply felt record, tying off the end of the group’s third decade with unobtrusive confidence and lilting, melodic dream pop balladry. Its origins stretch back to the malaise of pandemic lockdowns, of which communal dinner was an early casualty and a particularly tragic one considering the cultural backgrounds of Japan-born Kazu Makino and her Italian bandmates Amedeo and Simone Pace.

Sit Down For Dinner hangs together around its two-part centerpiece of a title track. The first part is an opaque vignette delivered at the top of Makino’s wispy register and the mix, held in place by a hollowed-out metronome-steady beat. The second part picks up the pace and lifts a lyric—“Sit down for dinner/ And the life as you know it ends”—from The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion’s chronicle of grieving her husband’s sudden death.

Everything here feels pared-down, more so than usual, or at least more so than previous shined-up and electropop-adjacent outings 23 and Penny Sparkle. “Rest of Her Life” is just vocals, simple strums, and ambient babbling brook and birdsong for effect. “Melody Experiment,” released as the second single, and “Before” are melancholia rock, bringing the band back within range of long-touted influences Sonic Youth. On occasion, they venture into territory that feels like 4AD labelmate This Mortal Coil with the gothic drama turned down.

Eventually, Makuno and Pace grow tired of talking about their feelings, and the record ends with “Via Savona,” an almost entirely instrumental epilogue—there are some light vocalizations from Makuno, but no words—named for a street in the Pace brother’s native Milan. It’s a pulsing, beautiful, and fitting end to a record rooted in and striving for soft communal feeling. After all, if there’s one thing nearly as old as humans eating together, it’s humans making noise together. This far into history, we call it music.

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