If by some chance a friend sets you up with a blind date and you discover it’s Johnette Napolitano, here’s a little advice: Bring along a squirt gun loaded with holy water and wear a garlic necklace just to be on the safe side. Napolitano, the husky-voiced lead singer and songwriter of this L.A.-based band, appears to have developed a vampire fixation.
It’s no coincidence that Concrete Blonde’s excellent third album is called Bloodletting. The music is masterfully dark and moody, stripped-to-the-bone rock along the lines of the early Los Angeles punksters X, and every song revolves around one creature of the night or another.
In the title track—a grungy rocker—the beast seems literal (“Oh, you were a vampire, and I was nothing at all”). In the slam dance-paced “The Sky Is a Poisonous Garden” and the creepy crawly “Darkening of the Light,” the monsters are bloodsuckers of the figurative sort, former friends and lovers who have drained Napolitano dry before the sun came up.
The demons are even more real on two slow-rolling ballads that close the album. “Joey” is turned by Napolitano’s throaty moan into a woman’s pitiful plea to a drunken ex-lover. “Tomorrow, Wendy,” written by ex-Wall of Voodoo singer Andy Prieboy (who does the song on his solo album), turns as dark as midnight in a haunted house as it tells the tale of an AIDS-stricken hooker who kills herself.
None of this makes Bloodletting the feelgood record of the summer, but it is intelligent rock you can sink your teeth into. (I.R.S.)