Best tunes of 1990: #10 Concrete Blonde “Bloodletting (The vampire song)”

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I have always been an avid reader and in my early to mid teen years, it was all about the horror fiction. “Different Seasons”, the collection that included the story upon which “Stand by me” was based, was my gateway into Stephen King and by 1991, I had read most of what he had published. I had also sampled a good portion of the works by John Saul and Dean Koontz, and then, my friend John suggested I check out Anne Rice. I was only about a hundred pages into “Interview with a vampire”, the first book of her Vampire Chronicles series, when the lyrics of the title track off Concrete Blonde’s 1990 album “Bloodletting” started to make a whole lot more sense.

Indeed, Anne Rice’s works seemed to serve as a sort of spirit guide to the entirety of Concrete Blonde’s third album, if not lyrically, definitely in mood and scope. This album took the American alt-rock trio into gothic rock territory and strangely, served the band up their greatest commercial success (as already mentioned in the post on “Joey”‘ which appeared at #21 on this list). Every song is tight and fit cohesively into the album as a whole, evoking the New Orleans of Rice’s books, like a gloomy, romantic, and steamy graveyard with violence lurking in every dark corner.

The lyrics of the title track are more an inference than a retelling of the first book, that dark and empty house where the vampire Louis recounts his story to a journalist, along with that of the enigmatic Lestat. In case you’ve never read the book, nor seen the film adaptation that starred Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, I won’t say much more about it but if you’ve listened closely to the lyrics, you can probably guess how it all ends. However, you don’t have to be an Anne Rice fan at all to enjoy this track, just a taste for the macabre. It’s all eerie screeching sounds that hint at bats and howling winds that rustle decaying leaves. The bass is evil and deeply foreboding, the guitars are a scratching at your bedroom window, seductively asking to be let in. And then, there’s Johnette Napolitano, a deeper and sultrier-voiced Siouxsie Sioux, her delivery sending chills all up and down your spine.

I got the ways and means
To New Orleans
I’m going down by the river
Where it’s warm and green
I’m gonna have a drink and walk around
I got a lot to think about
Oh, yeah

A great, great track, but definitely not one for the faint of heart.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1990 list, click here.

Vinyl love: Blur “13”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: Blur
Album Title: 13
Year released: 1999
Year reissued: 2012
Details: 6 of 7 in Blur 21, anniversary box set, black vinyl, 180 gram, 2 x LP, Gatefold sleeve

The skinny: Having written a #1 hit pop song, Damon Albarn and friends seemingly decided to run as far as they could in the other direction, deep into art rock territory, verging on the esoteric. Not the easiest listen at times, but there is something oddly beautiful about Blur’s 6th album and Damon’s heartbreak is almost palpable thoughout.

Standout track: “Tender”

Best tunes of 1990: #11 Depeche Mode “Enjoy the silence”

<< #12    |    #10 >>

Just outside this list’s top ten, at the eleven spot, is perhaps one of the biggest songs by one of alt-rock’s best known bands: “Enjoy the silence” by Depeche Mode.

This British synth-pop, new wave act were originally formed by Martin Gore, David Gahan, Vince Clarke, and Andy Fletcher in 1980. Vince Clarke left the group after only one album and was replaced by Alan Wilder, who stuck with the group until 1995. Depeche Mode has operated as a trio ever since. From the year of their inception through their first handful of albums, they steadily built a following, first domestically and then, internationally, especially with 1984’s “Some great reward”‘ but it was 1987’s “Music for the masses” and its subsequent tour that really broke them in the US. Then came “Violator” and they were huge.

“Enjoy the silence” was one of two advance singles that foreshadowed the brilliance of the record. The song is instantly recognizable with that steady drum machine beat, alternating synth washes that sound like breathes of fresh air, and that guitar melody, an instrument that Gore was newly adding to the band’s usual synth heavy sound up to this point. And of course, there’s those opening lines that lead vocalist David Gahan intones in his perfect baritone: “Words like violence, break the silence, come crashing in, into my little world.”

He’s almost perfectly describing an introvert’s crisis. He does go on, of course, introducing a girl to the picture, a lover’s embrace, late at night, where words only ruin the mood. Is there still love or is it just the physicality? Or is the girl just an idea, or perhaps a symbol, a representation of all that causes him pain? Then, there’s the music video that suggests another interpretation. Shot by Anton Corbijn, a frequent music video collaborator of the band, it depicts as Gahan as the little prince of literary fame, roaming many isolated landscapes with a lawn chair, perhaps in search of some solitude and some quiet.

Whatever the meaning behind the lyrics, the tune is a beautiful beast, built both for the dance floor (as evidenced by its many remixes) and for nights alone, under the shroud of darkness. Truly full of grace and worthy of all the reverence bestowed upon it. Have another listen on me.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1990 list, click here.