The Mail On Sunday

The Mail On Sunday - October 5th 2003 - page 75

Debbie is still a natural Blondie

Written By: Tim de Lisle

Blondie
The Curse Of Blondie (Epic, out Oct 13)

Siobhan Donaghy
Revolution In Me (London, out now)

Blondie are doing rather well for a band who once took 16 years off between albums. Their 1999 comeback single, Maria, was a worldwide smash and they are still on a roll today.

Their influence shines out of contemporary acts ranging from Sophie Ellis Bextor (disco with cheekbones) to the Raveonettes (power-pop with mild dementia). Debbie Harry is in several forthcoming films and at 58 can still command a magazine cover shot.

Atomic Kitten have had a Number One with a cover version of The Tide Is High which paid unashamed homage to Blondie. With a curse like theirs, who needs blessings?

One of their famous fans, Sharleen Spiteri from Texas, recently pointed out that their magic lay partly in their voracious variety. Rapture was the first big rap hit; The Tide Is High was reggae ('turned whitey wedding-reception monster', as Spiteri noted); Call Me was swamped-boogie done with synthesisers; Picture This was a sophisticated take on Sixties girl groups. Blondie were never just a pretty face.

The new album picks up most of these strands in its first ten minutes. The opener, Shakedown, is exuberantly filthy hip-hop rock - Rapture with a New Jersey accent. The first single, Good Boys, is a disco stormer with a stadium chorus, lyrics which quote from Queen and a bum-wiggling bassline in the great tradition of Da Ya Think I'm Sexy. It is Blondie's finest hour since Atomic.

The other 12 tracks encompass ethereal Japanese folk, beguiling dub pop, an oddball tribute to Joey Ramone and some beret-wearing jazz that might have come better from Harry's other band, the Jazz Passengers. But the whole package exudes confidence and craftsmanship, and the genre-hopping works because of Blondie's enduring uncommon denominators.

Harry's ex-lover, Chris Stein, brings crisp guitars and a formidable ear for a tune, while drummer Clem Burke supplies boundless energy and his signature sound, loosely modelled on a family of elephants going for a run.

Above all, there is Debbie Harry's voice, still Blondie after all these years. It always sounded Blonde, even when she went brunette, and it is blonder than ever now - light, airy and luminous, with no tinge of grey. Perhaps it helps that, having found fame at 32, she was older than her peers first time round. Blondie play here next month: this album should start a stampede for tickets.

Among the spiritual daughters of Harry are the Sugababes, who almost imploded a couple of years ago but have now split into two fine acts. Siobhan Donaghy, who walked out because babehood wasn't for her, has made a solo album of superior pop songs which dare to combine R'n'B rhythms with quotes from Shakespeare and musings on chromosomes. Perfect for a slightly tricky 15-year-old

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