Blondie | Blondie 4(0) Ever (Noble Id)

cd blondieWhile Deborah Harry may not sound exactly like she did back in the band’s heyday, she’s gained an edge to her voice that she uses to great advantage.

 

 

They were glamour punks who hit mainstream radio, name-dropping Fab Five Freddy, and taking time from hanging at Max’s Kansas City with the Warhol crew to lay the foundation for female-fronted rock ’n’ roll bands. The band that morphed disco, punk, new wave, and hip-hop into pop success is back on the dance floor with a new album, Blondie 4(0) Ever. The two disc set includes a new collection of tunes entitled Ghosts of Download and a second disc called Deluxe Redux: Greatest Hits, featuring new studio recordings of the band’s most well-known jams from the past.

Now if you’re wondering if the re-recorded disc is even necessary, that kind of depends on how high your tide rolls. If you’re a longtime Blondie devotee, you’ll consider it a must-have, as the band reverently sticks to the glittery blueprints that made the songs such a sugar rush in the first place. The new takes on the old tracks retain their personality, even with the 21st century production upgrade, though new passengers on the good ship Blondie will probably be happier picking up the original recordings. Of course, the real reason to buy a ticket to this party is the brand new album. Is it worth it?

Well, the band’s penchant for hooks and genre-hopping is still strong as it ever was, balancing sonic adventurism with mostly reigned-in guest appearances. Tracks like Cumbian opener “Sugar on the Side” (with Systema Solar) and the Klezmer–tinged groove of “I Screwed Up” (featuring Oakland-based rappers Los Rakas) bring the big hooks, while the guest stars add color without distraction. Other standout tracks include the trance-y reggae of “I Want to Drag You Around” and the Miss Guy–assisted “Rave” which is probably the closest we get to experiencing the band’s classic sound. The only curiosity here is the cover of the Frankie Goes to Hollywood hit “Relax,” which starts out as a hypnotic mood piece and finally opens up in a crescendo of voice and sound; a bit epic for what is essentially an ode to sex, but certainly a unique take on the ’80s hit. While nothing scales the heights of “Heart of Glass” or “Hanging on the Telephone,” there’s more than enough here to warrant the band’s insistence on moving forward with new material. A nostalgia-circuit Blondie is a Blondie we should never have to witness in this lifetime.

While Deborah Harry may not sound exactly like she did back in the band’s late-’70s/early-’80 s heyday, she’s gained an edge to her voice that she uses to great advantage. She’s more than up to the task, spitting out truths like on “Winter” where she sings, “If honesty kills, you’re gonna have a long life,” managing to sound cutting, sarcastic, and angelic, all at the same time. And while we don’t hear nearly enough of guitarist Chris Stein in the mix, the underrated hero of Blondie remains drummer Clem Burke, whose stick work makes even the lesser songs work well on multiple listenings.

For physical product folks out there who avoid downloads like the plague, the deluxe physical package of Blondie 4(0) Ever includes a LIVE AT CBGB 1977 DVD, with over 50 minutes of lost footage of the band at the peak of its powers. | Jim Ousley

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