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Stylus - April 2004
The Curse of Blondie
In 1975 the, possibly apocryphal, story is that Chris Frantz asked Debbie Harry to join a fledgling, three member band called the Talking Heads. Her response was “I’ve already got a band, but you can buy me a drink”. It’s quite obvious who the favour was for there, because from the moment that Blondie alienated the CBGB-purists by having a go at that disco malarkey, Deborah became the greatest pop star ever. From her media-ascribed role as a punk Monroe, through that cover of Parallel Lines (as iconic a band image as has ever been taken), to the all-conquering comeback of 1999 (a Europe-wide #1 single, and her endearingly shit “drunken auntie” dancing at Glastonbury that year) and even extending to her work in GTA: Vice City, she has been everything that at truly great pop star should be: glamorous, interesting, sexy, inventive, and, least importantly of all, talented.
The motto always went “Blondie is a band”, and the rest of the band certainly knew their instruments, but they also knew their roles. Keep Debbie at the front in white, everyone else in the shadows in black. It’s a routine that worked well for them over the years. Indeed, when your frontwoman is capable of delivering something to the quality of “French Kissing In The USA” without your help, it’s wise not to push your luck.
The Curse of Blondie, then, marks the eighth studio album for Blondie, and the first in five years. However, unlike the previous No Exit, this album doesn’t feature an ill-advised (is there any other kind) guest appearance from Coolio, and isn’t a comeback. Nowadays, Blondie are touring, touring big, and are one of the few bands (Duran Duran, er…. U2?) from their days that can still make a living off gigs without being ghettoized into those awful 10-band retro “play your hit single and then get the fuck off the stage” tours (yes, Dollar, I’m looking at you). Released in the UK at the tail-end of 2003 (scoring a top 10 single with “Good Boys”), The Curse of Blondie’s US launch has been held back until now. Possibly because America hates old people.
It shouldn’t. Whilst only an idiot is going to expect a new Parallel Lines or even an Auto-American from a band over 20 years past their prime, they still impress. The main difference between the band now and the band then is the ages, though. Harry is now in her 50s, and that voice isn’t the same crystal-cutting siren’s siren that delivered those “ooooh ooooh, aaaaaahhh” noises in “Heart of Glass”. She knows her limitations, though, and as such this is a Blondie album, with the whole band. They get more to do, they pick up some slack: we aren’t listening to Debbie Harry and Her Blondies.
Even so, it’s still all about Debbie. Opening track “Shakedown” is a particular delight, a stomping, traffic-jam in a heat wave tune, with crashing chords, and our Debs having a second, nearly as ill-advised as it was during “Rapture”, attempt at rapping. She still smokes Kanye West, though. It’s a Noi Joisey pride track, really, fated to appear in The Sopranos at some point (“Nasty attitude, Mediterranean lassitude”), with an air-light chorus that brings to mind those halcyon new-wave disco days. Debbie Harry must be the only woman in her 50s who the establishment lets, nay, who forces the establishment to let her sing “Can I lick that? Can I kiss it?” during a song in these days.
The single, “Good Boys”, is a deliberate throwback to those “American Gigolo” times (Giorgio Moroder is even dug-up for an end of album remix in case you didn’t get it the first time round). This song is why Joey Ramone and Joan Jett hated Blondie, it’s all drum machines and pop and bubblegum and guitars only turning up when you they’re totally necessary and thus perfection. Anyway, he’s dead, she may as well be and Blondie are still having hits and getting reviewed by me. It’s obvious who wins here.
There’s enough on the rest of the album to occupy your time as well, but Blondie were always about a few killers and some fillers. However, the killers here, as well as on any other Blondie album, are absolute Harold Shipman’s, daisy-cutters, subway bombings. If you can’t be blown-away by them, you either don’t have a heart, a soul or any dancing shoes. The Sunday girl may be entering her autumn years, but she’s still an absolute treasure. Enjoy.
Stylus - April 2004