Concrete Blonde’s Mojave

It is still true that I will occasionally pull out Concrete Blonde’s ??Free??, play along with the first half straight through, and then contemplate playing the second half, too. I can do that with the first album, too, and much of ??Bloodletting?? (Chet and Joy and Michelle and I saw them open for Sting in New Orleans after this album, as well as Vinx).

And then came ??Walking in London??, and ??Mexican Moon?? (on which tour I saw them play in a half-empty club in Boston during a blizzard) and then last years ??Group Therapy??, none of which did much for me.

Well, when ??Group Therapy?? came out, Chet made a comment about how he never showed so much optimism as at the record store. I decided to indulge in a bit myself, and bought ??Mojave?? last week, very shortly after it came out.

The executive summary is that I like it. It doesn’t feel as leaden as the last few albums, which, to me, have tended to make Black Sabbath look like a swing band. Now this isn’t a different band, mind you; it’s still a three piece, and Jim Mankey is still less about rhythm guitar and more about atmospheric additions, and Johnette’s lyrics still sometimes clang, etc. In other words, if they annoyed you in the good old days, they’ll annoy you now.

But it’s a lot more like the good old days than I ever expected. The track-by-track rundown is:

h4. The ‘A’ Road

A big distorted bass dominates this track, with Jim providing a wash of near white-noise in the background. Perhaps a bit by-the-book, but not bad.

h4. Because I Can

A less prominent bass line is the underpinning for this track–none of this should be a big surprise, Johnette’s bass has always played a prominent roll–with Jim adding a little texture and emphasis.

h4. True to This

I think it’s reasonable to say that this may be “True IV”–there’s something about the delivery that reminds one of “True, Pt III” (incidentally, the only track from ??Group Therapy?? that I remember really liking) and both versions of “True” on ??Concrete Blonde??. I like it.

h4. Ghost Riders In The Sky

Does this qualify as an old chestnut? Not that it matters, there’s something about the arrangement that seems to elevate it above a mundane cover.

h4. Hey Coyote

You might think, if you’ve ever been to a Concrete Blonde show, or listened to a live Concrete Blonde track, that a track with a lot of topical narration from Johnette would be, um, not a lot of fun to listen to. You’d be wrong, though, as I was. For some reason this works, and it’s actually one of the tracks I like quite a bit.

h4. Himalayan Motorcycles

This is kind of hard to describe. I don’t dislike it, but I find it somewhat forgettable.

h4. Mojave

This is another fairly ethereal track. There’s a strange sort of intensity to it that somehow makes it seem like the product of some desert fever-dream.

h4. Snakes

Nope, doesn’t do anything for me. To slow and plodding.

h4. Jim Needs An Animal

Apparently something happened to Jim’s cat. Most people wouldn’t think this was subject material for a song, but Johnette did. It’s fun, if not a masterpiece.

h4. Someone’s Calling Me

It doesn’t start off in a way that makes one confident–it sounds more like some odd outtake from Hooverphonic–but once the drums kick in, it finds its feet. A bridge comes out of nowhere.

h4. My Tornado At Rest

The first minute or two is a kind of interesting instrumental, and then it takes a left turn into another related-but-different instrumental. A nice way to finish the album.

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Michael Alan Dorman

Yogi, brigand, programmer, thief, musician, Republican, cook. I leave it to you figure out which ones are accurate.