This disc may be my newest acquisition, but some of these songs and I go back more than fifteen years. So when I stumbled across this disc the other day, and saw that it had all my favorites from the band, I had to get it. And now I’m telling you why you should get it. Just maybe not this version, it’s probably a little difficult to find these days.
But not matter what version you get, the album will kick off with the brilliant and atmospheric “Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)”. The sinister bass line that underpins the song and the killer , slightly doomy/Sabbathy, riff dig a groove for this song something like six feet. Singer Johnette Napolitano, meanwhile, is most comfortable prowling the midrange, but you’d better believe she can let loose with some power for the high notes when she needs to. And what better place to show it off than the song’s chant-along chorus that is really fun to, well, chant along to.
The top quality tune is immediately followed up by the speedy “The Sky is a Poisonous Garden”, which is just thrash. A solid drumbeat drives along a speedy fiesta of riff, bass and low vocals. It’s not the heaviest the genre has to offer, but female thrash is a rare treat, and this song will scratch that itch, while also adding something new with some soft, high notes to back the chorus. And then the album changes track again for the mid-intensity “Caroline”. Not at all a full-on, slow ballad, it keeps the album’s momentum going while also exploring a softer side of things. And I love the song as much as the previous two. It’s one of the ones that’s been in my life for about as long as I can remember, and, yep, it was my father responsible for that.
Things do get more ballady as the album leads on with “Darkening of the Light”, but the acoustic twinkle keeps the song vibrant. And by no means is it a bad song, Napolitano has range and versatility in spades, so I don’t mind the variety to the songs. It’s actually something that makes the album quite appealing, even if it means you’ll need a wide palate of musical tastes to get the most out of it.
The ballads continue on with “I Don’t Need a Hero”, though taking a slightly more stripped back approach, with an increased percussion presence. It’s only alright though and it goes on a little long for my tastes. After the great “Darkening of the Light”, this song doesn’t really do enough to justify its existence. But we are plunged back into the action with the fun riff and funky bass of “Days and Days”. Napolitano’s punky and slightly Boingo-ey sneering through the verses if fun too, and the simple call and response hook of the chorus of ‘days and days!’ is plenty catchy and makes an enjoyable headband or fist pump no matter where you are.
Rock rolls on into the next song, the speedy and riffy “The Beast”. Another one for the bass fans, I also find the low-range vocals for the chorus to be a nice change of pace from the usual, and it helps differentiate the songs on the album. There’s also a couple of killer solos on this tune (and around the rest of the album too) to enjoy) Eighth track, “Lullabye”, is definitely one ballad too many, and not a real innovative or interesting one at that, unfortunately. But the next song is brilliant again so it’s not the end of the world. Another ballady one, but actually a good one this time, “Joey” has a lot more in common with “Caroline” than the two duds. And I love it as much as that one. Napolitano gets to open up the vocals a bit too, which helps the song for sure, and they manage to fit in a contemplative solo and a bit of a riff in there as well.
And now, we finally get to “Tomorrow Wendy”. The soft and emotional tale of a woman diagnosed with AIDS who took her own life rather than living with the disease, this is absolutely one of the best ballads on the disc, interpolating incredibly soft parts with livelier bits. It would usually close the album on a depressing note, but on this edition you get four extra bonus live tracks. Recorded in Malibu, likely in 1990, you can get three of these on various b-sides from the era, as well as the 20th anniversary anniversary edition of this album.
But the one song you can’t get on those, and I think is exclusive to this very disc, is the song I bought the album for, the live version of “God is a Bullet”. My favorite Concrete Blonde song (actually getting its own, in-depth song of the week a while back), it’s rendered as you’d want from a live version: a little faster, a bit more intense (with a a choice f-bomb to boot) and just a tad haphazard. I didn’t pay a huge amount for this disc, but it was absolutely worth it for this track alone. The fact that the rest of the album is mostly great and has most of my favorite songs from the band is a wicked bonus.
Anyway, live track two is “The Sky is a Poisonous Garden”. And this rendition rules too. Taking an already amped up song and applying the energy of a live performance to it results in a blistering take on this killer tune. Then, from the band’s 1989 album Free (as was “God is a Bullet”), is “Roses Grow”, a fun, bouncy number that’s nice to have. And, finally, the album returns to its original closer with “Tomorrow Wendy”. A little more lively in the vocals department (not that the studio version was deficient in this regard), it sort of acts as a more hopeful reprise of the song to close the album on a slightly less depressing note.
Bloodletting is a pretty damn good album. There’s a pretty half and half mix between the softer and harder stuff, but most of the ballads are brilliant, and the heavier and speedier songs help offset this as well by totally knocking it out of the park.
The verdict- 4.25/5 stars