CONCRETE BLONDE at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Monday (February 18). Sold out. 416-532-1598. Rating: NNNNN
since blondie's reunion in 1999 fell fairly flat, you can't blame me for being skeptical about the latest 80s Blonde to make a stab at a comeback. After an eight-year hiatus, the original members of Concrete Blonde -- Johnette Napolitano, guitarist Jim Mankey and drummer Harry Rushakoff -- are back on the road.
"God came down and slapped me on the face," Napolitano sighs on the phone from her home base in L.A.
The biggest surprise about the reunion is the decision to bring original drummer Rushakoff, whose drug problems wreaked havoc last time around, back on board.
"The better we got, the more fucked up Harry became," she says.
What makes it harder is that Napolitano has a brother in jail for similar reasons. The fact that he didn't get the opportunities Harry did makes dealing with her troubled drummer even more difficult.
"I have to be the hardest bitch you've ever seen; he's like a fucking 12-year-old sometimes. He's gone through rehab, and I see some changes, but I know some people are programmed to only function with crisis, so we'll be testing him for a while.
"All Harry has to do is show up on time and play the drums well. He knows I'm serious, that we'll go on without him. There are two people in line right now to take over his job if he fucks up again."
Not that Napolitano doesn't have problems of her own. Sometime last spring she started having what she believes were premonitions, which led to a near nervous breakdown.
"It was the scariest experience of my life. I was convinced I was foreshadowing my own death. I prayed every night, promising I'd do my best work ever if I was kept alive. I've worked as a psychic medium and read tarot cards for years, and I knew it meant something."
Flaky? Maybe. But the crisis inspired her to hook up with her former bandmates:"I knew they wouldn't dismiss me as crazy."
Something clicked, and by August they'd put together an album.
The new disc, Group Therapy (Manifesto), dropped January 15. Luckily, it's no No Exit (that other retro-Blonde's comeback album). The first single, Roxy, is sparkling pop inspired by the reunion of yet another 80s outfit, Roxy Music. You can hear echoes of the old Concrete Blonde, but they smartly avoid the brooding, funereal dirge that weighed down earlier albums, fleshing out their retro-pop tunes with Spanish guitar licks and pseudo-spaghetti western surf-punk.
Despite this solid effort, Napolitano sees more than Blonde in her future. Since the band folded, she's kept busy with projects like alterna outfit Vowel Movement and Pretty & Twisted. She's also scored a film, taken flamenco classes and shown off her artwork in solo exhibitions.
So could this be a blink-and-you'll-miss-'em last hurrah for the Blondes? Napolitano says probably.
"I've always felt like I should be working in a trauma room somewhere, or saving lives. I'm 45 this year, and I don't really have a family -- I have my pooches and my houses and my friends and my art, but that's it.
"I definitely don't want to be doing this when I'm 80."email@example.com