More than four decades after their self-titled debut album, Blondie return with Pollinator, with songs written by TV On The Radio’s David Sitek, Sia, Johnny Marr and others, including original members Debbie Harry and Chris Stein. But let’s cherry-pick their back catalogue…
Plastic Letters (1978)
As with their promising debut two years previous, here Blondie married their love of the ’60s (The Beatles, girl groups) and ’50s pop ballads with power pop. The hits Denis and (I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence Dear – the former a souped-up doo-wop cover – shamelessly borrowed from Buddy Holly and the British Invasion, respectively. At a time of punk, Blondie were in the vanguard of New Wave.
Parallel Lines (1978)
Just seven months after Plastic Letters they returned with this hit-packed outing: Harry and Stein’s disco-influenced Heart of Glass, the poppy One Way or Another, astute covers with the bratty Hanging on the Telephone and Buddy Holly’s I’m Gonna Love You Too, and Stein’s pure pop on Sunday Girl. In Stein’s Fade Away and Radiate – which featured guitarist Robert Fripp – they were also pushing into more challenging areas.
Recorded in L.A. with a swag of session players, Autoamerican divided critics. It opened with a cinematic instrumental by Stein, but did tap again into disco (Live it Up), reggae (the cover of The Tide is High) and hip hop dance (Rapture, with Harry’s idiotic but ironic rap). There’s also melodramatic cabaret and faux-showtunes (Here’s Looking at You). Two-thirds of a good album, although not for the New Wave fans.
No Exit (1999)
Almost 20 years after their previous album, some of the band reformed for this release, which, as always given their magpie tendencies, drew from numerous sources such as reggae, cabaret, hip hop, straight ahead pop and girl groups (the Shangri-La’s Out in the Streets gets covered). Still smart enough to ping a hit (Maria by keyboard player Jimmy Destri).
Because Blondie were a singles band, a best of/greatest hits is the way to go. The Greatest Hits CD/DVD set of 2006 is recommended because it also presents their sassy visual image. Check out Debbie Harry’s 1989 Def, Dumb & Blonde too, where she covers Thompson Twins’ I Want That Man. A commercial failure but a decent Blondie album, just one under her own name.
For more overviews, interviews and reviews by Graham Reid see: www.elsewhere.co.nz