Blondie were victims/exploiters of sexism in the media; many people believed that Debbie Harry was Blondie. Her model looks helped propel the band to superstardom, but unlike the majority of sex kitten divas who came before and after her, Harry fronted some genuinely great music. This was because Blondie was a real working group, with every member writing songs and making crucial musical contributions. Though none of them were virtuoso musicians, aside from drummer Clem Burke, they rose above somewhat amateurish beginnings to become one of the world's sleekest and tightest rock-pop hitmakers. They practically defined their era with a combination of rock drive, disco rythms, '60s junk-pop, and Roxy Music-influenced synthesizer treatments, along with anything else that caught their eclectic little fancy. In retrospect, it seems odd that Blondie rose from the grimy mid-70s CBGB's scene, playing their early gigs alongside the Ramones and Patti Smith; however, punk rock in New York never meant anything more than a group of bands who all happened to come along at a certain time and in a certain place. Once the British hijacked the punk platform for a more narrowly defined buzzsaw attack derived from the Clash and Sex Pistols, the term New Wave had to be coined for more pop and/or experimental bands like Blondie and the Talking Heads. In their prime, Blondie took an ironic, slightly sardonic New Yawk attitude towards pure pop, but their unabashed love of the form easily outweighed the irony. Few bands that offer this much sheer immediate aural pleasure turn out to be as unexpectedly satisfying, fulfilling, and nutritious as Blondie.
There's a really nice site, The Blondie Archive from Australia that's worth checking out.____________________________________________________________________________
They sound a bit clumsy compared to their later professionalism, but as with most debuts, nowhere else does the band display this much sheer enthusiasm. Blondie gleefully deconstruct '60s AM pop with a modern sheen supplied by Jimmy Desti's synths, which dominate here in a way they never quite would again, especially on the corny West Side Story send-up "Shark In Jets Clothing". In "X-Offender" (original title: add "Se"), Harry gets busted by a cop and gets turned on by it, practically drooling over his badge and playing the part of the bad girl not because she's really bad but because he might want to go out with her if he thinks she is. At least I think that's the basic gist. Harry makes the best of her limited voice, cooing seductively in "Look Good In Blue", wispily whispering in the ballad "In The Flesh". "In The Sun" is modern surf to make the Beach Boys proud, only the setting is New York Island. Everybody loves a good catfight, and "Rip Her To Sheds" is one of the bitchiest. The record kind of slacks off towards the end, though, with interesting but not as catchy numbers with overly camp titles and lyrics - "Kung Fu Girls", "Attack Of The Giant Ants". A pleasurable gem of an album, but not as catchy or accomplished as some of their later material; still, one of their best albums, and anyone who likes Blondie will get a kick out of it.____________________________________________________________________________
As is the case with many second albums by young, inexperienced bands, Blondie sound both more self-assured and confident than on their debut, but with somewhat less inspired songwriting. However, that's only "somewhat"; though the band is a harder-rocking, tighter, and slicker outfit by this point, there's less variety in style and sound, which makes the album grow a bit tiresome towards the end after hearing punchy raveup after punchy raveup with little letup. Yes, the most instantly catchy song happens to be a cover of a '50s oldie, "Denis," but the swirling opener, "Fan Mail," may be even better, with terrific lyrics sharply detailing the type of obsessive stalker celebrities tend to attract. As usual, Blondie adhere to democratic principles with Destri/Harry/Stein more or less splitting the songwriting evenly & collaborating when they need to; departed bassist Gary Valentine leaves them a second single, "I'm Always Touched By Your Presence, Dear." The three ballads are gloomy and quirky; Harry's "Love At the Pier" (rhymes with "sharing a beer") is trashy fun; "Contact In Red Square," shows the band's campy side with a terrific spy-vs.-spy sendup; and the band throughout -- if you don't get up and moving to at least a few of these tunes, you're clinically dead. The reissue adds a couple of bonus tracks: an alternate version of "Denis" (so what), and another gloomy, quirky ballad, "Poet's Problem," which probably wasn't released at the time due to its blatant reference to snorting cocaine (as Harry world-wearily intones, "I think I'll do a line and then again..."). Their second best album, it refines the debut and sets the stage for their world conquest....
In my view this is one of their strongest albums. It isn't nearly as consistent as Parallel Lines, of course, but it does have some great moments. "Fan Mail" is an absolutely brilliant song that really showcases the range of vocal styles that Harry is capable of employing. The band's campy humor is in full force on "Bermuda Triangle Blues" and "Contact in Red Square" (a cold war spy rave-up). "I Didn't Have the Nerve to Say No" and "Love at the Pier" are also really solid. A few of the slower songs are still catchy because they're quirky and inventive, plus you get the two singles. It's a worthwhile package.____________________________________________________________________________
You know, sometimes I think this might be the greatest pure pop album of all time, but then I remember that the Beatles existed once. Alright then, this is the greatest mega-hit blockbuster album of all time, the type from which half the songs are huge hits and you hear this album everywhere for about a year and a half. It puts Thriller, Rumours, Purple Rain, Born In The USA, and err, Hysteria all in their place. Practically a greatest hits album of all new material, the half of these songs that didn't become hits could just as easily have been if there wasn't some limit to hits per album. Where in the world to begin? Okay, howsabout the beginning - the telephone ring setting you up for the powerful rocker "Hanging On The Telephone" - when Harry trills, "I can't control myself", any heterosexual male whose libido doesn't shoot up needs Viagra. On the next cut, "One Way Or Another", Harry pushes her newfound agressive sexuality to the limit by chattering in the voice of what we now refer to as a stalker - "And when the lights are all down/I will drive by your house" - as if she ever needed to stalk any man. As a bleached blonde who grew up idolizing Marilyn Monroe, Harry coldly emotes "Fade Away (And Radiate)" with utmost sincerity and detachment in a tale of fan worship and the blurring of reality. Harry makes a midnight curfew sound like a life or death matter (literally: "it's 11:59 and I want to stay alive"), Chris Stein growls that he's your dog but not your pet, the mix brings Burke's powerful drumming to the fore, and producer Mike Chapman reins the band in for a tight, bright, shiny, explosive powerhouse of a sound that's relentlessly accomplished and professional, and for once is the all the better for it. Each song is a distinct pleasure and none of them really sound the same, with the brisk guitar pop of "Sunday Girl" fading out for the disco pulse of "Heart Of Glass" to come in. Only the Buddy Holly cover might possibly be considered superfluous, but it's not. The only problem with this album is that it makes everything Blondie did before sound like a mere warmup, and everything they did after a disappointment, which just goes to show you how perfect this album is, because some of their other albums are actually good. Don't go away mad, just go out and buy this album. Or borrow your older sister's eight-track, unless it's already worn out.
Reader CommentsGlenn Wiener, Glenn.Wiener@Entex.com
Its great that you appreciate Parallel Lines so much. Whereas I am not the biggest fan of new wave music, Blondie's Parallel Lines explores enough styles to make it one of the premiere records to own from its style and era along with Elvis Costello's My Aim Is True and Armed Forces. Everyone of those tunes could have been a smash hit and its good that they weren't as the album still is very fresh sounding unlike overplayed caterwaling courtesty of Robert Plant on Led Zeppelin IV.
Like I said earlier, this is a quite good album that pales in comparison to the previous one. Blondie consolidate their strengths for Parallel Lines Part II, but like most sequels it's less satisfying than the first. The good stuff - "Dreaming" is the pinnacle of their power-pop leanings - is only a shade lesser than the best of Parallel Lines, but overall the album is inconsistent. The disco "Atomic" and the reggae "Die Young Stay Pretty" flat-out suck, "Sound-A-Sleep" couldn't have been better titled, and the title track and "Living In The Real World" are tuneless shouters. The rest, though is pretty solid: another stalker anthem, "Accidents Never Happen"; the slightly jaunty, slightly spacey "Slow Motion"; the ballad "Shayla". Move on to this after you've gotten Parallel Lines and have become an absolute fanatic about it (like myself); these are the leftovers, which as we all know can be very good, but not as good as the main course.
Glenn Wiener, Glenn.Wiener@Entex.com|
Whereas it does not compare to Parallel Lines, I do appreciate Eat To The Beat. I kind of like Die Young Stay Pretty and Atomic as they have some interesting beats. Maybe not as grabbing as Heart Of Glass but definitely ear catching. The weird combination on this record is playing Sound A Sleep (which could sedate an elephant) and then Victor (which could probably wake up the dead!). Wonder what the band was thinking.
Blondie tackle a lot of styles for their most eclectic album, which unfortunately is as hit and miss as you'd expect. The two hits were "Rapture", another disco song with a parodic rap about eating cars, and a cover of the Caribbean standard, "The Tide Is High." Both are highlights of this highly inconsistent album, which finds the band stretching its eclecticism well past the snapping point -- did you hear that snap? That would be the very first track on the album, "Europa" which sounds like what you'd expect from a song with that title; or would be the '20s style sendup; or the limp rockabilly of "T-Birds"? The band tackle a lot of styles here, but the plain fact is that Blondie, like most bands, have stylistic limitations -- which is to say that there are certain genres of music Blondie just aren't very good at. It's a shame that "Angel On The Balcony," easily the best song here and one of the most haunting songs the band has ever done, gets lost amidst this sea of derivative tomfoolery.
Reader CommentsMicheal Worrell, firstname.lastname@example.org
The critics of this album don't like the eclectic approach, regarding it as unfocused. Actually, that's just about the same problem that a lot of reviewers had with "No Exit". I don't think that's an accurate assessment. There are a lot of genres covered, but they're all covered competently and convincingly. There are no misfires on here that would rival the failure of the reunion album's title track, that's for sure. I'd buy this one just for "Angel On the Balcony," which is a beautiful song that could have been made into a single easily.
Supposedly the band delivered this album only because their contract forced them to, and it sounds like it: by this time the band just sounds tired, going through the motions in songs that superficially sound like Blondie but lack the hooks and excitement that made classic Blondie worth listening to in the first place. It gets off on the really wrong foot with a slow, draggy doomy psuedo-goth number, but the rest of the album isn't quite that bad. I said quite - the rest is still bad. There are two good songs: the Caribbean-flavored "Island Of Lost Souls", and the autobiographical ballad "English Boys", in which a teenage Harry stranded in suburbia falls in love with magazine pictures of long-haired guys from England, and drops in an allusion to the Stooges' "1969". The rest is tepid and dull, not quite unlistenable, but nothing I ever want to hear again. Lots of tribal drumbeating a la Adam and the Ants as was current circa 1982, which dates parts of this album because that tribal Antmusic turned out to be one of the lamest trends the '80s threw up - nobody lays down those tom-toms anymore for a damn good reason. After this album the band broke up, with Harry pursuing a solo career.____________________________________________________________________________
A curious failure. It sounded like a perfect match - Harry and Stein with Chic as the backup band. However, Nile Rodgers and Bernie Edwards must not have been in a creative mood that week, because the funk here is uninspired Chic-by-numbers. None of these songs have that goosestep that makes you want to dance, and even worse, none of the songs are any good. What makes this album unbearable, though, is Harry's singing. She enunciates at her most affected, painfully displaying all the limitations of her voice and sounding like an overly mannered twit in the process. The most annoying song is the opener, "Jump Jump", about training dogs to obey - wow, that makes me shake my booty! The least annoying song is "The Jam Was Moving", but even it's not any good. Not surprisingly, this album was a flop, and the next album that Harry and Stein masterminded was released underneath the Blondie moniker._____________________________________________________________________________
If you're not going to buy Parallel Lines, then this is a good second choice, even if it is less consistent - which again goes to show you just how great Parallel Lines was. It contains the hit from American Gigolo, "Call Me", which was only released as a single and can't be found on any regular-issue Blondie album. It has most of what you'd want from all the albums, except for the awful "Atomic". A decent overview, I suppose, even if a quite a bit of album material is stronger than some of the flop singles found on here.____________________________________________________________________________
A curious compilation, this is not a straightforward rarities collection but a combination of unreleased material and B-sides mixed with overlooked album cuts. Interestingly enough, it works - for the first time I realized what a good song "English Boys" was, which I never noticed because it was buried as the second to last song on The Hunter, and since this comp also contains "Island Of Lost Souls", it renders that album redundant. As for the unreleased material, both the rocker "Underground Girl" (which alludes to the Velvet Underground) and the ballad "Suzie and Jeffrey" (which alludes to "goin' to get married" in its refrain) are strong. Plus you get the Spanish version of "Call Me", the French version of "Sunday Girl", and live covers of T. Rex, Bowie, and Johnny Cash. Essential for fans, but not the place to start for beginners, as is usual.__________________________________________________________________________________
Yes, an honest to goodness comeback album from the original core four (Stein, Harry, Burke, Destri). The reviews I've read have been equally split between positive and negative.
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