Eat To The Beat


Chrysalis, 1979

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Riding high from the success of the trashy disco classic "Heart Of Glass," and its album Parallel Lines on both sides of the Atlantic, Blondie turned in their fourth album that followed the same exact blueprint as their last three.

Eat To The Beat is nearly a clone of its predecessor, with the same amount of songs, the same average song length and the same sort of feel that pervaded the last album -- a unique New Wave/bubblegum pop hybrid that foreshadowed a lot of 80s pop music. To their credit, Blondie never sounded like anyone else, but they often sounded like themselves, with only basic variations in the sound.

Fortunately, a few flourishes here and there keep the record from being Parallel Lines 2. Deborah Harry multi-tracks her voice and puts plenty of echo on "Dreaming," which sounds like it could have come right out of Phil Spector's 1965 girl-group phase -- it was deservedly a hit, and Harry knows exactly how to sing a pop song. She falters slightly on "The Hardest Part," which tries for a David Bowie-circa-my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Lodger beat but doesn't have the lyrics to back up the authority of Clem Burke's drums (which carry "Dreaming" as much as Harry does.)

One wouldn't expect music this frothy and pop-oriented to have lyrics, and Harry doesn't disappoint. The platinum blonde writes stuff that occasionally boggles the mind, but her voice sounds so natural with the music that it's forgivable (kind of like Jon Anderson and Yes). This is noticeable on "Union City Blue," the best marriage of doo-wop and new wave on the record -- while it musically succeeds, Harry sings words like "Arrive, climb up four flights / To the orange side / Rearrange my mind." If you say so.

The band is at its best on the quicker songs, like the grrl-power punk of "Accidents Never Happen" (Harry was more punk than they gave her credit for) and "Slow Motion." They falter on "Shayla" and "Sound-a-Sleep," neither of which retain any emotion -- and, on that note, what the hell is "Victor?" Harry screams over top of a fuzzed-out guitar while the background singers moan occasionally. By no means is it a good song, but it's so curiously different that it warrants a listen (but no more than one).

But just when the album seems to be destined for mediocrity, along comes "Atomic," far and away the band's best song and the one they deserve to be remembered for. The band sets the mood with a simple four-note riff and an excellent bass riff, while Harry wails at the top of her vocal range something about beautiful hair (in fact, the pre-chorus bit about "your hair is beautiful" made the song work, according to the band's liner notes in the Platinum Blonde collection). After the first verse, the band breaks into an instrumental piece -- at one point, everything drops out but the drums and bass -- and then goes into the verse and coda, with Harry repeating "Oh oh, atomic" over a crescendo of pop music madness.

Eat To The Beat turned out to be the last good record from the band, although they stuck it out for a couple more. One can start to hear the signs of fraying here, as if the band realized they were running out of ideas, but there is enough to make this work, and like most Blondie works it has held up better than it should have. And, it gets a higher grade just for having "Atomic."

Rating: B-

User Rating: B+



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