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philly.com - 6th November 2007

Debbie Harry - not ready to quit
The Blondie singer's first album in 14 years rocks.
By Steve Klinge 

For The Inquirer

One would be hard-pressed to guess Debbie Harry's age from Necessary Evil, her often-raucous new solo album and the occasion for her appearance at the Keswick Theatre on Friday. 
As the face of Blondie, Harry's iconic image - a bubblegum Marilyn Monroe with Andy Warhol cool - is frozen in the punk/new wave late '70s, when her band became the most commercially successful of the scene that grew from the once-scruffy, now immortalized, and recently defunct CBGB. But Harry was in her 30s and a bit older than most of her contemporaries then. She's 62 now.

The eclectic Necessary Evil is Harry's fifth solo album, and her first in 14 years. In the interim, she did some acting, revived Blondie for several tours and a pair of albums, and did occasional solo shows, most recently on Cyndi Lauper's True Colors tour, with Erasure, the Dresden Dolls, the Gossip, and others.

Although Blondie began with roots in girl-group vignettes and surf-guitar buzz, Harry also has had a penchant for current club sounds, whether they be disco (see the ubiquitous "Heart of Glass") or early hip-hop ("Rapture"), and her solo albums often take that currency further. 

Necessary Evil jumps from shiny contemporary pop songs to sneering, rough 'n' ready guitar rock to brash electro to sassy, talky rap, and it references text-messaging, eBay and Wi-Fi. It's not a retro new-wave album (she has the Blondie reunion for that), nor is it a pensive missive from an elder stateswoman (see her stints as vocalist with the Jazz Passengers for that kind of sophistication). It's a youthful, of-the-moment, sometimes rowdy rock album.

On the phone from New York a few days after the album was released, Harry said Necessary Evil came about because she was ready for "more of the madness":

Question: The album has a very contemporary sound. It's not a retro new wave album; instead it's pop that often sounds very current.

Answer: That's what I want to do, that's what I like. I think that the Blondie name and the Blondie sound is so established that for me to do a solo project, I really have to step away from that.

Q: Do you keep up with current pop music? Are there some specific artists who inspired this record?

A: I can't name any band that was specifically inspiring to me. But overall, I've been listening to everything. I go out and see bands and I did the Cyndi Lauper tour with some up-and-coming bands, and we always try to have new artists opening for us on the Blondie tour. I think it's a gentle kind of subtle osmosis. I really like Calvin Harris' latest single, "Merrymaking at My Place." I like LCD Soundsystem, CSS. I love Bat for Lashes and M.I.A. There's a great variety right there.

Q: There's an edge to a lot of the songs; for instance, the violence and anger in "Love With a Vengeance" and the title track.

A: I think it's a bit more of an aggressive approach on my part, not so laid-back. I hate to use the word, but possibly more mature.

Q: It doesn't seem like it's worried about making concessions to what people might expect or want from a Debbie Harry album.

A: Good. I don't have any ambitions to be nostalgic. Personally, I'm alive and living today and I look forward to doing new things and being better and better at what I do. I like rock music; I'm a rock singer.

Q: How do you feel about the nostalgia for the punk era, and all the tributes with the closing of CBGB, etc.?

A: Well, quite frankly, I'd rather have the people that are all dead come back to life rather than nostalgia. I mean, that's nice, nostalgia. I like older music and all. But I'd rather hear them playing today and hear what they were up to today. And after thinking about it all and living through it all, that's where I come out.

Q: The punk nostalgia thing seems tired at this point. There's something antithetical about being nostalgic for a time that was so much about living in the moment and not looking back.

A: Yeah, I feel very fortunate that I was a part of all that. Who would have thought that anybody would have that in their life? I feel really lucky. It was a great time, but there's more great times to come. . . . I think being a punk really has done me good because it makes me fight for what I want, and that's really what that was about. To fight for what's right.

Link: philly.com - 6th November 2007


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