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Spotlights [Issue # 10 ]
Concrete Blonde: What A Long, Strange Trip It's Been

By Peter Vouras

They say the desert can make a sane man go insane, make you see things that aren’t there, and make you hear things when there is nothing around for miles. The sun of day can blister the flesh while the chill of night can leave you frostbit. Such describes Mojave, the latest release from the venerable band, Concrete Blonde.

Leaving the crowded, smog-ridden congestion of the City of Angels for the unpredictability of the Mojave desert, Concrete Blonde have emerged with a dark, brooding album of songs as diverse as their environment. Johnette Napolitano’s weathered voice conjures up the spirits while Jim Mankey’s swelling guitar work gives them life. Drummer Gabriel Ramirez pounds out the rhythms in tribal glory.

The album plays out like a psychedelic peyote trip beginning with the first cut, “the ‘A’ Road,” with its driving beat and lyrics, “Judy Judy Valentine, Couldn’t walk a straight white line, She brought a lizard home to stay, He hissed and licked her every day.” Next up is the bass-propelled, “Because I Can,” where Napolitano moans, “I found a place where the high turns blue and I walked right out of my mind.”

You’re beginning to smile as you feel the drug course through your body. The cathartic “Through With This” compels you to rid yourself of all materialistic things; but then, just as you’re feeling your most comfortable and most vulnerable, a dark wind blows in. A lone guitar starts strumming an old familiar song. Of course you’ve heard it before. It can’t be, or can it? It is. But you’ve never heard it like this before. A deep, frayed voice whispers, “yippi yi yay, yippi yi yo, Ghost riders in the sky.”

Then, in the distance, you notice a pack of coyotes silhouetted by the full moon; yet, seemingly, their eyes glow with an eerie iridescence. You shiver as Napolitano launches into a spoken word homage to the nocturnal carnivores in the song, “Hey Coyote.”
The journey grows even darker and you wish the sun would soon rise while “Himalayan Motorcycles” race through your head. “Baby fishes swim away, they’re following their mama butterfly.” What does it all mean?

Sweating and shivering at the same time, you start hearing voices. They are the voices of past generations, ghosts, possibly the devil himself. They are voices of the desert. They are the “Mojave.”

The dawn is breaking as you throw off the blanket of night and stare into the eastern sky. The light grows brighter and warmth descends upon you. Is it safe yet? Do you emerge from the voyage or do you wait? Wait for what? Perhaps for “The Snakes” hissing, “I think I feel you in the sand, not far away. A tiny tremor of the land I lay and wait. I’ll see your eyes; your big wide eyes but you won’t see me. Yesssss you and I will meet tonight under a Joshua tree.”

It’s over. Remnants remain, but they always do. A flash of metal on the side of the road triggers a memory, real or imagined. One can never tell. The paralysis of night gives into the liquidity of day. A silly song pops into your head, “Jim Needs An Animal.” How droll. The sun begins its journey across the desert sky. The drumbeats of another day begin. Napolitano sings on “Someone’s Calling Me:” “to begin again from zero, lose your fear. I’m in your ear. I’m always here.”

You grab water, the elixir of life and leave this magical place. You put all things aside and as the last song on the album, “My Tornado At Rest,” plays out you hear the familiar voice sing, “Like a song, like a wave, like a moment in an ocean. What I wanted, Yeah I got it. But I needed I was haunted. I’m a comet. I’m a flower. An exploding neon shower.”

Eleven Thirty

What A Long, Strange Trip It's Been Concrete Blonde Mojave

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