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Vocalist/bassist Johnette Napolitano -- a brunette Kim Gordon -- and ex-Sparks guitarist Jim Mankey composed the core of L.A. pop punks Concrete Blonde. Though the two produced exceptionally articulate and engaging songs, their music was plagued from the get-go by a nagging eclecticism that left fans wondering whether they were Punk, Goth, or merely mainstream -- and which ultimately put the band's career in arrears. Their debut, for instance, yawed unpredictably from Hendrix-inspired Metal to syrupy soft pop that out-cheesed the '80s radio dreck of the Motels and Quarterflash. The release of Bloodletting (1990) demonstrated a tad more stylistic focus and a quantum leap in songwriting abilities. With deeply personal tracks like "Joey" (about an alcoholic falling-out between lovers) and "Wendy" (about an AIDS casualty), Bloodletting reads like a thinly veiled roman a clef detailing Napolitano's personal experiences. Unfortunately, the album's emotional power and street-smart realism is sometimes compromised by the addition of heavy-handed Goth kitsch. Just bear in mind, anyone who holds their inconsistency against this band does so at the risk of depriving themselves of some of the choicest recordings of the post-New Wave underground.
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