Walking in London

Johnette Napolitano has one of the most potent voices to spring from the loins of the L.A. postpunk scene. It’s liquid, dark, and luminous, like mercury spilled from a broken thermometer — slightly malevolent and utterly compelling. On Walking in London, Concrete Blonde’s fourth album, bassist, songwriter, and lead singer Napolitano puts that voice to fine use: It’s a velvety salve on the loping ballad ”Les Coeurs Jumeaux” (”Twin Hearts”), and a bracing stimulant against the languid, hypnotic pace of ”Walking in London,” the title track. Guitarist James Mankey shifts gears just as easily. His gentle filigree on ”Someday?” sounds just as natural as his unstudied, steel-wool grind on ”Why Don’t You See Me.” And if a few songs sound belabored — ”I Wanna Be Your Friend Again” is anchored by a monotonous hammer-and-anvil beat and features a surreal phone conversation complete with electronically altered voice — the band more than redeems itself with a searing cover of James Brown’s ”It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” that’s more about compassion than political correctness. Napolitano belts out the line ”Well, he’s lost in the wilderness” without a trace of condescension. If anything, she’s reaching out a steady hand in the dark. B+

Walking in London
  • Music