Of all the bands to have risen from the CBGB’s scene, who would’ve thought that the most durable would be Blondie? Their eponymous debut was crammed with consciously disposable (if totally enjoyable) poptunes; their schizophrenic promos (trumpeting “Blondie is a group” one moment, leeringly focusing on blond bombshell Debbie Harry the next) were guaranteed to foster in-group rivalry; even their reunion proved rocky as two members of the middle years Blondie sued to be let back into the band.
But the core has endured and is back with another new disc of material, The Curse of Blondie (an apt title for a group that’ll write a love song utilizing William Castle’s The Tingler as its central metaphor). Blondie is and ever will be Clem Burke, Jimmy Destri, Debbie Harry and Chris Stein – less Gary Valentine, who left the group after leaving ’em the divine “(I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence.” And Curse shows that they still have their trademark surfrock-girlgroup-discoid-reggae-newwave-throwitallagainstthewallandseewhatsticks sound down. Ephemeral poppery? Maybe. But, admit it, didn’t you just go yeah! the first time you heard “One Way or Another” in that teevee commercial?
Frontwoman Debbie still raps unconvincingly (in the teasing opener, “Shakedown,” she asks a Jersey lover to let her see “what you’ve got hidden in your body cavity” – and if the song were less flirtily filthy, I’d have given up on the album right there), while the band’s desire for urban hepster cred is lamentably repped by a “make a jazz noise track” that nearly derails the disc near the end. But aside from those two missteps, Curse is equal to Blondie or Plastic Letters or Eat to the Beat, each of which contained at least one big strategic flub (e.g. “Attack of the Giant Ants” or “Sound-A-Sleep”). If the band’s sound ain’t as sparkly fresh as it was in the days of its debut or their Mike Chapman-ized classic, Parallel Lines, I’ll bet few fans are gonna grouse. Deb ‘n’ the boys are still ahead of their imitators when it comes to yummy pop chewiness.
Some of the disc’s highlights: the dancefloor friendly “Good Boys,” with its infectious synth bassline and a chorus line winkingly swiped from Queen; “Undone,” which meshes “Sunday Girl” breeziness with surging guitarwork; the deeply reggae “Background;” plus “Last One in the World,” which makes maximal use of this great studio band. Jimmy Destri’s melodically melodramatic keyboarding, Stein’s sharp guitar chording and Clem Burke’s happily busy drumwork mesh beautifully on this track – Blondie Definitely Is A Group. (Love the guy chorus repeating “Only one, you’re the only one” to Deb’s lamentation that “Sometimes I feel like the last one on the planet.”) Listening to our foremost new wave chanteuse coo, growl and moan her way through this entertaining and fresh set of lust-filled declarations, mournful remembrances and occasional pulp fancies – and it’s like they never really went away. The Curse of Blondie? We all should be so cursed. . . Powered by Sidelines