Concrete Blonde beefed up their lineup by adding a second guitarist, Alan Block, for 1989's Free. Like their self-titled debut release, the L.A.-based band focuses on the dark side of modern life, but they also intersperse a few lighter songs into the mix with good results. Free also found the band producing themselves. The grinding guitars and lead singer Johnette Napolitano's passionate vocals made the searing "God Is a Bullet" a college radio hit. "Roses Grow" is an interesting track with Napolitano making barstool observations over a metallic drumbeat. It is the lighter moments on the album that really shine, though, like the gentle warmth of the optimistic "Sun" and "Happy Birthday," a jangly pop rocker. The band also takes a stab at Thin Lizzy's "It's Only Money." Free shows a considerable amount of growth in both the songwriting and playing of their debut and makes it a worthwhile follow-up.
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AllMusic Review by Tom Demalon