The Curse Of Blondie

Blondie

Sanctuary, 2003

http://www.blondie.net

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/04/2007

If only this album had been released back in 1982 instead of The Hunter, perhaps Blondie would have stayed together and kept right on recording.

But fate intervened, which resulted in a long dry spell until 1999's disappointing No Exit, which apparently was meant to get the blood flowing and iron out the kinks between the original band members. Four years later, the band released The Curse Of Blondie.

Problem is, by the time they got around to recording this brilliant eighth studio album with producer Craig Leon, the band's core audience (not to mention its prime) had long since passed them by.

Ardent Blondie fans -- yes, there are still quite a few -- hold The Curse Of Blondie as close to their hearts as Parallel Lines and Autoamerican. It’s got 14 tracks to ponder and/or salivate over, which is both the blessing and curse that the title is referring to. My feeling is it runs a little too long for its own good, the only thing keeping it from being a classic like the band's 70s work.

Let's start with the negative. If I were to choose two songs to cut straight away, they would have to be “Hello Joe” and “Diamond Bridge.” The former has a mambo rhythm that stands out like a sore thumb and the latter is marred by its dubious melodrama. I also take umbrage with the placement of the rap-infused “Shakedown” as the first track. For a woman who is as old as your grandmother to be spouting off curse words and sexual innuendo is a little unsettling. It’s such a polarizing track that it surely caused many listeners to turn the disc off right then and there. Which is a shame, considering how strong the rest of the album really is. nbtc__dv_250

The title of the album is also somewhat unfortunate. It should have been called Blondie Comes Undone, in reference to the great third track “Undone.” At least the song was a single... not that it made any difference, since radio didn’t bother to play any of the singles from this album.  As Blondie’s first disco song since “Heart Of Glass,” “Good Boys” is undoubtedly a tribute to Deborah Harry’s legions of gay fans. It’s also where you first hear how strong and clear Deborah’s singing voice is now. The gorgeous closing tune “Songs Of Love” places her vocal front and center and is another standout designed to silence the critics.

It’s no wonder Blondie chose to tour on this album, because they really are at the top of their game after all these years. Chris Stein gets a few choice guitar licks in there, Jimmy Destri (who chose not to tour) fleshes out nearly every song with some entrancing synth flourishes and Clem Burke remains one of the best unheralded drummers working in the industry today. Interestingly, there are a couple of Hunter-esque moments to be found on The Curse Of Blondie, like the tribal stomp of “Desire Brings Me Back” and the meandering drift of “Magic (Asanda Yunta).” Could it be that the band has finally embraced the album that did them in the first time around? 

It’s all part of the abundant charm to be found on The Curse Of Blondie. I was left with a mournful feeling of nostalgia after listening to these songs, wishing that the 80s sound could somehow make a comeback. You would think by now that hip-hop and rap would have run their course and that something else would take its place. Blondie deserves credit for boldly putting out an album of their own design.

When Deborah sings the line, “Baby, when they made you / I was the background melody,” you can’t help but admire her chutzpah. Nice to see she’s still got plenty of spunk and fire in her (hence the flames surrounding her on the album cover). You can rest assured that this is one punk goddess who’s not going down without a fight.

Rating: A-

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© 2007 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sanctuary, and is used for informational purposes only.