mon 17/06/2024

CD: Blondie - Panic of Girls | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Blondie - Panic of Girls

CD: Blondie - Panic of Girls

The spirit of 1980 revisited by Manhattan's indestructible popstrels

Blondie rides again (and again and again)

Blondie took 17 years off between 1982 and 1999, and bounced back with the chart-topping single "Maria". Now, refreshed after an eight-year power nap following 2003's The Curse of Blondie, they've returned with their ninth studio album.

This would have been a splendid record in 1980, a year which its snappy synth-pop flashbacks seem to want to evoke. In 2011 it's still not bad, though there's a sense that the tracks are compensating with artful studio technology for shortcomings in the writing, and perhaps in Deborah Harry's brittle vocals. Nonetheless, the disc comes roaring out of the blocks with a triple punch of terse and crunchy electro-beats with punky underpinnings. "D-Day", with its fart-like percussion, wailing sirens and delinquent female harmonies, is like classic Blondie meets The B-52s. "Mother" slickly blends raw guitars with blipping synth and creamy melodies, while "What I Heard" streaks past like a multitracked greyhound.
After these, the Blondies seem to have become baffled about what to do next, so they decide to fall back on their time-honoured fondness for reggae. One trip to the Caribbean would have been fine, but the fact that we get three leaves the disc feeling lopsided, even if Harry's jokey vocal on a cover of Sophia George's "Girlie Girlie" is likeable enough, and "Sunday Smile" tickles up its slow, smooth lilt with some resounding mariachi trumpets.
Yet the further you travel down the track list, the more you feel like turning round and going back again. Harry sings "Wipe off my Sweat" in Spanish, and sounds like a karaoke-night Gloria Estefan. More puzzling still is the excursion to St Tropez in "Le Bleu", a Gallic waltz with accordion which irresistibly (yet pointlessly) summons images of matelots with pencil moustaches in striped jerseys.
Didn't they get the tweet about the album being dead? Better, surely, to have divvied up these tracks and leaked them out via cunning digital sleight of hand, which might have lent their retro roots a forward-looking sheen.

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