Concrete Blonde, the veteran trio led by singer-bassist Johnette Napolitano and guitarist Jim Mankey, recently released a fine new live double-CD, Live In Brazil, which proves they still have it.
But while the group evolved into a moody pop band over the years, on their great ’86 debut (produced by Jim’s brother Earle), Concrete Blonde was a punky new wave trio.
On the debut, Jim’s driving, insinuating guitar, and Napolitano’s evocative Chrissie Hynde-like alto voice rock with liberated passion. Every song on the original vinyl Side 1 is memorable: the loping shuffle of “True,” psychobilly drive of “Your Haunted Head,” extended menace of “Dance Along the Edge,” and the bittersweet farewell of “Song For Kim,” stick in the mind long after the record is over. But classic guitar thrasher “Still In Hollywood” was the career-maker.
On “Hollywood,” Napolitano’s voice ranges from near-conversational storytelling in the verses to a raging howl on the choruses. The band compresses into one song the hope, glamour, squalor, and resignation that has made Los Angeles a bipolar magnet – equally attracting and repelling – for 100 years. Tough, funny and compassionate, Napolitano sings in the voice of someone who had been struggling to make it in Hollywood’s rock ‘n’ roll quagmire for nearly ten years when she wrote the song in ’85. With this song – and album – she made it.