Parallel Lines


Chrysalis Records, 1979

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


Simon & Garfunkel may have helped to usher in the ‘70s by slipping in quietly like a couple of peace-loving monks, but Blondie were determined to leave the decade as loud as possible, kicking and screaming all the while. Gentle soft rock was replaced by anything-goes punk, which was quite a drastic change in itself. Still, it did show just how varied and exciting music had become over the course of the decade. Blondie’s charismatic lead singer Debbie Harry was the rare female rocker who wasn’t afraid to lead the charge into the colorful ‘80s, especially when it came to eventually branching out on her own as a solo performer. Though she would never experience the same kind of success like she did fronting Blondie, Harry did pave the way for future mercurial female artists like Madonna and Annie Lennox.

The first couple of Blondie releases helped to put the band on the map, but only when they teamed up with hit producer my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Mike Chapman did the group really take flight. Their resulting product would become the bestselling cult classic from 1978, Parallel Lines.

This genre-defying album has everything from surf pop, rock, and punk, with a little bit of New Wave glam and a splash of disco all thrown into a blender for a fun and frothy confection with a lot of bite. Debbie Harry’s voice is the one constant that holds the diverse collection of tunes together. She can wrap her pipes around any kind of music you throw in her direction, though she is at her best when she switches into she-devil mode. Debbie goes into complete overdrive on the raucous “I’m Gonna Love You Too,” the full-throttle “Will Anything Happen,” and one of my all-time favorites, “One Way Or Another.”

Sheer audacity and a rebellious spirit is what made Blondie so great. On Parallel Lines, aggressive rockers “Hanging On The Telephone” and “11:59” blend seamlessly with tender numbers like “Picture This” and “Sunday Girl.” First you find yourself getting sucked into a black hole on the creepy and highly experimental “Fade Away And Radiate” and then, before you know it, Debbie is innocently charming your socks off with the inspired “Pretty Baby.” One thing is made abundantly clear on this record -- the girl has mastered the art of sounding seductive and making the most of her feminine wiles.

Unfortunately, Blondie’s follow-up album, Eat To The Beat, was nothing more than an inferior imitation of Parallel Lines, often sounding like material that had initially been temporarily shelved. However, things got back on track with 1980’s Autoamerican, which found the sextet broadening their musical palette even further by incorporating classical and jazz elements into the mix. Today, over 25 years later, the original Blondie lineup has returned to flip the script once again and show the amateurs out there how it’s really done. So hey, go back into the bleach again…if you dare.

Rating: A

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© 2008 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 Chrysalis Records, and is used for informational purposes only.