Music

Concrete Blonde: Bloodletting (20th Anniversary Edition)

Twenty years down the road, Bloodletting holds up pretty well.


Concrete Blonde

Bloodletting (20th Anniversary Edition)

Label: Shout! Factory
US Release Date: 2010-07-13
UK Release Date: 2010-07-13
Artist Website
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Back when I was young and snarky, I tended to dismiss Concrete Blonde. When I heard their cover of Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows" and considered the fact that their Bloodletting album was influenced heavily by Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles book series, I decided with a sniff that the group's most creative moments piggybacked on the creative achievements of others, and moved on.

It would take some time to learn two things: 1) a band realizing its potential is a rare thing, and 2) good interpreters are few and far between. Bloodletting owed a heavy debt to Rice's humid, wasted version of New Orleans, but it also found vocalist Johnette Napolitano's lyrics and the band's sound -- a broad and dense post-punk style characterized by slightly twanged guitar -- coming together. Whereas the band's previous efforts had shown promise with a handful of keepers apiece, Bloodletting provided a gothic alternative for anyone who might have found the Cure's Disintegration too mannered or stately. As part of a three-album run that included 1992's Walking in London and 1993's Mexican Moon, Bloodletting began a creatively fruitful period for the band, one in which they explored issues such as failed relationships, addiction, and a blend of Catholic and Hispanic imagery with often inspired results. Concrete Blonde then broke up (they would briefly reunite years later before disbanding again).

Twenty years down the line, this reissue acts as a good reminder why, despite treating them unfairly back in the day, I've kept Concrete Blonde's CDs on the shelf rather than boxed up in the closet. "Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)" kicks things off in raucous fashion, with a slinky riff giving way to a shouted chorus. "The Sky is a Poisonous Garden" then speeds things up even further by hurtling through like a runaway locomotive in under three minutes. The record's nocturnal vibe continues through songs like "Darkening of the Light" and "The Beast", but Bloodletting broke the band on the strength of character studies like "Caroline" and "Joey", which chronicled less supernatural tribulations. By this point, the band's streetwise grit was blending with a sense of romanticism that elevated many songs above the level of straightforward vignettes.

This being a 20th Anniversary edition, the original album is supplemented by six bonus tracks. It's disappointing, though, that four of them are available on the band's Still in Hollywood compilation (which, if it's out of print, isn't terribly hard to track down in the used bins). Personally disappointing is that the live version of the Andy Prieboy-penned "Tomorrow, Wendy" discards Napolitano's introduction to the song. To these ears, that speech added even more anger to Concrete Blonde's definitive version of this song about a woman dying of AIDS.

Of the extras, only the b-side, "I Want You", and the French version of "Bloodletting" might be unfamiliar to Concrete Blonde fans. The French "Bloodletting" is the most surprising. Rather than taking the easy way out by slapping French lyrics on the original backing tracks, the band reworked the song, mixing French and English lyrics, making the song a minute longer, and arguably making it sound meaner in the process. That's a worthy addition to this album that's stood the test of time, and even converted this former naysayer.

7

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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