Vampdaddy Reviews: “Bloodletting” by Concrete Blonde

July 14, 2010

Thank you, Funkschnecke — your last post reminded me with great horror of my experience accidentally walking into the room while my father and uncles were watching the scene in The Exorcist when Linda Blair’s eyes rolled into the back of her head. I think I was six or seven. I slept in the far corner of my bed, hoping that the devil wouldn’t reach up and kill me, for years afterwards. This was further complicated when I discovered that I share a birthday with Linda Blair, but I’ll leave that for my therapist.

However, to keep with the spooky theme — and share with the reader a continued sense of the diversity they can expect from Music on a Stick, I present to you the first of what I hope to be many album reviews. We will mine the landscape for the current, the classic, and the horribly wrong, and encourage you to seek them out and enjoy.

Picture this: Boston, 1990. Your college bedroom is smaller than a phone booth, walls covered in Siouxsie and Cure posters, dried roses and obscure fliers for avant guard theatre. A pile of Anne Rice novels is sitting in the corner, just balancing an incense burner. You’re deeply in touch with your brooding self and wear black because its “how you feel inside” (back when goth meant more than shopping at Hot Topic).

What are you listening to? The answer for many was simple: Bloodletting by Concrete Blonde — on cassette, of course.

Concrete Blonde emerged from the LA rock scene in the 80s which brought us Wall of Voodoo, Germs, X and the Go-Gos. With two albums under their wing and fans including some group called R.E.M, lead singer Johnette Napolitano and James Mankey had tasted some recognition for God is a Bullet, a song from their second album that seemed all-too-timed to the ongoing gang and racial violence emerging from Los Angeles.

After adding drummer Paul Thompson to the mix, Bloodletting would turn out to be the band’s biggest release — and one that happily has received new love in a recently released 20th anniversary remastered edition (Damn – am I really that old?). It is one of those albums where the whole release functions as a singular artistic statement. This is not an album that is meant to be listened to in parts, which is of course the current way that albums are enjoyed given the ease to buy (or acquire by other means) individual tracks. While not a vampire-themed concept album per se, the songs on Bloodletting are perfectly measured and delivered to bring the listener to an emotional place. The title track, which is one of several songs of the day to pay homage to Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, brings you immediately to the dark riverfront of New Orleans, and the rest of the album keeps you in the comfort of that darkness. The songs that follow speak of doomed love (Sky is a Poisonous Garden) and the struggle to make it through (Darkening of the Light, I don’t need a Hero, Days and Days). Lullaby keeps the mood while at the same time serving as the album’s love song. At the height of the AIDS crisis, their version of Andy Prieboy’s Tomorrow, Wendy gave voice to the struggle and stigma of the disease, and the discontent felt across the nation at a plague ignored.

Then, of course, there was this song called Joey. You probably never heard it — assuming you lived under a rock on some distant planet.

In the end, Johnette’s strong voice and Mankey’s unique guitar soundscapes unite this album’s aesthetic. Although the band would release several more great albums off and on until earlier this decade, the culmination of their talents was never so evident as on this release.

The band recently reunited to celebrate the anniversary of the album with a national tour, which due to scheduling I sadly had to miss. However, having seen them live several times during my college days, I’m sure it brought to the stage the very qualities that made this album one of the best of its time.

The 20th anniversary release of Bloodletting includes several bonus tracks, including the title track in French (ooh lala), and is available on Amazon, Itunes and hopefully at the indie brick-and-mortar store of your choice.

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2 Responses to “Vampdaddy Reviews: “Bloodletting” by Concrete Blonde”

  1. jungalero1101 said

    Great review. I forgot about how we talked about reviewing a certain orchestral-version album…we’ll still have to do that as an all-three-of-us review.

  2. mumma boo said

    No, you are not old. Because if you are old, then so am I. That 20th anniversary stuff is just hype. Really. Great review of the album – although it makes me nostalgic just to say the word “album”. I will have to go dig through hubs’ collection to listen to this one again.

    Loving this new venture of yours. Keep ’em coming!

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