Blondie 4(0) Ever

Blondie

Noble ID, 2014

http://www.blondie.net

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/17/2020

Blondie decided to celebrate their 40th anniversary in a typically eclectic fashion by simultaneously looking forward and back mashing two separate albums into a double disc set shamelessly titled Blondie 4(0) Ever. The first disc contains eleven of their classic hits but with a twist: all but one had been newly re-recorded for reasons we will get to shortly. The second disc is a full album of fresh material to follow-up 2011’s underwhelming Panic Of Girls. The band also hits the road as they do most years for a series of tours and festival dates to both celebrate turning forty and promote the new material, which they threw into their set with absolute commitment. As a fairly serious Blondie fan, I can attest that they played some of their best gigs of recent times during that run. So let’s break down what is on offer here:

Greatest Hits Deluxe Redux

Blondie was one of those bands back in the day that worked their butts off, hit the big time, sold millions and millions of albums (and singles) only to reach burnout after working themselves into the ground to realise that they were essentially broke. Their label at the time, Chrysalis, had form in this department and Blondie weren’t their only victims; however, they probably took the biggest hit. During their sixteen-year hiatus (1982-1998), they attempted to obtain both royalties and their masters but were largely unsuccessful. The sole reason this disc exists if for the band to be able to get the full benefit of approving their biggest hits for use across all kinds of mediums.

Musically, it is a rather impressive disc, as the band went to great lengths to recreate these tracks rather than just run through them and hit “record.” Deborah Harry was in her late sixties during these sessions, so of course her vocals were not exact replicas, but she very nearly hit the nail on the head regardless. Most of their big guns are here: “Atomic,” “Rip Her To Shreds,” “Call Me,” and “Heart Of Glass” sound the most impressive in their “reduxed” state. The only track that wasn’t re-recorded is “Maria” as it was lifted from their fantastic comeback album my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 No Exit released in 1999 – therefore, there was no reason to. Overall, the disc in fun to listen to but none of these tracks come close to matching the magic of the originals.

Ghosts Of Download

At the time of its release, Blondie had been working on their new material for close to three years, and as with predecessor Panic Of Girls, it is a deliberate move to create a fresh contemporary sound for the band. This one was mostly recorded electronically save for some live drums courtesy of the brilliant Clem Burke and some signature abstract guitar licks from Chris Stein. It is very much an electronic dance album with almost no expressions of any other genre that the band used to love to flavour their albums with.

Harry’s vocals are self-assured and firmly rooted in her comfort zone, and although she’s always been able to master that icy cool, almost aloof delivery at times when the material called for it, with the rather mechanical soundscape here across the entire album, she does at times sound as if she’d rather be somewhere else. This is mainly true on the jarring “Euphoria” and the lifeless “I Want To Drag You Around.”

Blondie has always had fun dropping covers into their sets that are usually well chosen and expertly reimagined (a killer version of MJ’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” is a fine example). However, their duplicitous workout of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Relax” offers nothing new and takes almost three minutes to get into gear. With all that said, there is still a lot to like about this record fans refer to as GOD. Its best moments happen when the band’s collaborators bring something new to the table, and coincidently, this is when Harry sounds much warmer and fully engaged.

“Rave” is a blistering club-inspired dance track with soaring vocals by Harry and some nice contrasting back-up by Miss Guy. Beth Ditto drops in for some fun with Debbie on the enchanting “A Rose By Any Name” and Systema Solar guests on and co-wrote the Latin-infused “Sugar On The Side.” The back half of the record has a few flat spots already mentioned, but “Mile High” is a pearler and the closer “Backroom” is one of the most fun tracks from Blondie’s latter years.

Greatest Hits Deluxe Redux is hardly essential save for fans and completists, but it’s still a fun listen. While Ghosts Of Download is not the strongest of recent albums the band has put out, it is a slick and highly stylized electronic record that a lesser band wouldn’t have had the chutzpah to attempt.

Rating: B

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