True, it’s probably the best time in 15 years or so to be somehow affiliated with the pop-culture force that was Late Seventies New York. What with the “new rock revolution” populated by numerous thin, skinny-tied rabble-rousers already splintering into sub-movements (“Death Disco,” anyone?) the cache of having grainy photos of your band’s early shows on the CBGB website is at an all-time high. Thus, it would be understandable to witness a band such as Blondie, who achieved stratospheric fame with their hallmark albums Parallel Lines and Autoamerican only to have it crumble to pieces in the early ’80s, re-emerging in today’s retro-friendly landscape—if not to reclaim past glories, then to trade on the constant name-dropping/image appropriation from much lesser bands (hello, The Sounds).
The problem is that Blondie already came back. In 1999, pre-Strokesmania, with a halfway-decent album. No Exit was dropped into a world that didn’t expect it, and as a result the fizzy new wave trappings of its lead single “Maria” seemed fresh, especially when stacked against the umpteen Linkin Park-lites of the day. Hell, they even managed a Number One single in the UK—some 17 years after their last album as a band, the rather dire The Hunter. Sadly, the all-too-aptly named The Curse Of Blondie has more in common with The Hunter than with its immediate predecessor. The production on too many numbers is mired in the typical “gotta sneak this past Clear Channel” trappings: metallic guitar, generic beats (is this Clem Burke, the same man who pulverized his drum kit on the breathtaking “Dreaming,” playing this anemically?), and unconvincing ’tude from vocalist/legendary sexpot Debbie Harry add up to one dull Blondie. Glimmers of spark erupt from some tracks—lead single “Good Boys” is good, silly dance club fun a la “Heart of Glass,” while “Undone,” at the very least, recalls the more successful aspects of No Exit. And while it may be stated that Ms. Harry is in fine voice throughout, she sang fine on her solo albums too. Now name one.
And it’s beyond sad that the pop songwriting genius of guitarist Chris Stein and keyboardist Jimmy Destri (yes, I said genius—he’s the man who wrote “Atomic,” after all) has dwindled to the point where several tunes on this collection should’ve been erased off the hard drive from the get-go. If some of Curse’s more forgettable moments (among them, “End To End” and “Shakedown”—the only pop song I can think of with the words “body cavity” in its chorus) had been excised and the resulting album whittled down to 10 tracks from an ungainly 14, perhaps Blondie ’04 might’ve had a fighting chance. As it stands, while some part of me still wants to believe that today’s pop world needs the smart, sassy saccharine of Blondie, this album does precious little to add to their shiny, sexy legacy. Does anyone have Mike Chapman’s phone number?