Since her ‘80s hitmaking days with Concrete Blonde, Johnette Napolitano has continued to craft inventive, poetic, edgy and often dark pop-rock music, both with her best known band, as well as with side projects like Pretty & Twisted, Vowel Movement and The Heads, and on independent solo projects.
Her latest solo release is Scarred, a 12-song CD on Hybrid Recordings that includes her whiskey-tinged bittersweet cover of Coldplay's “The Scientist” (which originally appeared on the Wicker Park movie soundtrack.) It also finds her handling a folk-march rendition The Velvet Underground's "All Tomorrow's Parties".
The disc opens with “Amazing,” a song that manages to entwine all of Napolitano's artistic strengths. It opens with a simple drumbeat and a hint of bells as Johnette sing-speaks an atmospheric lyric before a Led Zeppelin-esque Eastern melodic bridge twists things into the realm of the reverbed mysterious. Then she opens up the guitars and finally brings it all home to belt out the chorus:
“amazing, you're amazing
and I am only ok
but you are amazing
you're amazing and I just want
to live in your light.”
"Save Me" was inspired by the flood of New Orleans and melds a spoken word verse with classic rock pound of a chorus that lets Napolitano knock out one of the most intense rock wails on the disc.
From the cinematic extravagance of “My Diane” (“my life is all I have and I will live it the best that I can/and if I wake up in the morning I'll know I've been given another chance”) to the simple “Joey”-esque pop of “Just Like Time,” Scarred finds Napolitano sounding a bit more world-weary and uneven than in her ‘80s heyday, but she's still in fine voice, and still holds a memorable pop song or two tucked in her pen. For Concrete Blonde fans, this is definitely an album worth tracking down.
For more information and a free song download, check her site at www.johnettenapolitano.com.
Speaking of ‘80s artists on the new releases trail, The Alarm (currently billing themselves The Alarm MMVII) is currently on a short summer nostalgia tour with Psychedelic Furs and The Fixx (they played Naperville's Ribfest this month) in support of a their most recent album “Under Attack” and a new EP called Counter Attack. The discs celebrate lead singer Mike Peters' new lease on life – after a lackluster solo career following the initial dissolution of The Alarm in the ‘90s and a recent fight with leukemia, over the past year Peters has gone into remission and fathered a son, and now can triumphantly tour to support some recordings that show he's still a vital songwriter with one of the strongest, most distinctive voices in rock.
From the opening distortion-rich guitars of Under Attack's “Superchannel,” it's clear that Peters has rediscovered the energy that put The Alarm on the map more than 25 years ago. And Peters still has a way with a lyric – as on “Zero” when he points out pithily that “everybody is something to someone, somwhere.”
While their later albums were colored with gobs of studio polish, Under Attack returns to the fist-raising punkier raw rock of the band's early days. From the pounding beat of “Without A Fight” to the rising “whoa-oh-oh” vocals of the anthemic “My Town” the disc bristles with energy and great hooks. Just listen to “It's Alright, It's OK” once and you'll be humming the chorus in your head for days afterwards – this one's begging for repeated radio play.
For more information, check their site at www.thealarm.com.