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Napolitano's in Fine Form With Twisted Agenda : *** 1/2 PRETTY & TWISTED "Pretty & Twisted" Warner Bros.

August 06, 1995|Richard Cromelin

"Calling from the station, calling from the edge of desperation. . . ."

That's Johnette Napolitano on the line, and it sure didn't take the feisty L.A. singer long to get back into fighting form. Barely a year after the end of Concrete Blonde, she's leading another trio into battle against the demons. She doesn't always vanquish them, but she never gives them less than the fight of their lives.

Teaming with old pal Marc Moreland from Wall of Voodoo on guitar and drummer Danny Montgomery, Napolitano plunges into the struggle against dread and depression. She's "kicking against the undertow" in the mutant rockabilly romp "No Daddy No," and she's pure defiance when she wails, "Don't take me down / I won't go down."

She also offers reassurance and refuge in "Ride," a sultry invitation to escape, and finally finds something cleansing and purifying in the closing "Watching the Water."

Words by Paul Westerberg, Charles Bukowski, Janis Joplin and Bryan Ferry supplement Napolitano's lyrics, and Pretty & Twisted gives her tough/tender vocals a rawer, murkier setting than Concrete Blonde did. There's something both Bowie-esque and Cure-like in the band's aggressively ominous atmospherics--a sound with the grit and the grace to make the edge of desperation seem like the only place to be.

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