The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world






MAY 13 2014



I must admit to being a huge Blondie fan and this being their 40th year is pretty hard to believe, but here we are with both a Redux of their Greatest Hits and a new album ‘Ghosts of Download’ – all in one!


Now often re-recorded Greatest hits packages are a hit and mix affair but here the re-recordings, doe back in 2013 are absolutely stunning both capturing the essence of the originals and somehow adding a little extra. It’s particularly notable on tracks like ‘Dreaming’ and ‘Maria’ which seem to have added power, and it’s only really ‘Heart of Glass’ that doesn’t try to be anything but a replica of the original adding little more than a few subtle synth changes and a mellower vocal.   


This is very much a tale of two albums though: If you want a master-class in music then play the ‘Blondie 4_Ever’ disc until the end of time, if you want a very different experience then there’s ‘Ghosts of Download’…



Turning to the new album, I have to say that recent releases have always been a little hit and miss for me; I’m a lover of that original rock sound and find the dance/disco oriented material rather throwaway at best. ‘Ghosts of Download’ opens with the reggae-tinged Stein-penned ‘Sugar on the Side’ which glimmers briefly before sliding into dance territory that you can tell immediately from the beat that ‘Rave’ also inhabits – it’s like bad early eighties New Wave, all beat and electronica at the expense of melody, and though the vocal is rather sweet, it’s another instantly forgettable track. ‘A Rose By Any Name’ the Beth Ditto duet, is again key-heavy and has a kind of faux-sexy pop sheen that’s lost in a spacey keyboard that simply wants to be noticed, like the worst excesses of Eurovision, but has virtually no substance.     


At this point I’m starting to find it hard to love Blondie at 40 and it’s a feeling I must admit I’ve never really felt before. 


‘Winter’ starts promisingly enough though, and despite the intrusive retro keys it has a fine vocal and manages to capture some of the warmth Blondie always had, that so far have been notable only by its absence on this release.  ‘I Want to Drag You Around’ too heads in the right direction, led by a luscious vocal, which elevates a song that is essentially a decidedly low-key ditty. There’s a little Latin feel to ‘I Screwed Up’ that has a beautifully uplifting feel to it, it’s a shamed that its centre is stamped upon by an unnecessary Spanish rap that adds nothing at all to the song.


‘Relax’ was one of the songs I most hated in the eighties, an absolute exercise in style over substance. At the time it stood out for me as the song that embodied the worst that music could ever strive to be. Here it’s almost unrecognisable, stripped of all but piano and voice, its lyrics still sound uncomfortably banal and vacuous. Sadly three minutes on the song breaks into something frighteningly like the original, and it sounds almost as horrible as the fisrt time I heard that bloated substance-less tune. It really is truly horrible.


I’m almost inconsolable by the time ‘Take Me in the Night’ comes around, and inoffensive enough disco-beat and nice vocal that makes a largely forgettable song; ‘Make A Way’ is similarly nice but without the huge hooks this band used to be capable of and made them so essential. ‘Mile High’ is simply a ‘heard it a million times before’ dance track that does nothing, it’s so generic it’s surely a post-ironic statement on the vacuous nature of modern music?


While ‘Euphoria’ doesn’t exactly excite ‘Take it Back’s’ trite disco stylings leave me cold. I’m almost pleased to hear the electronic reggae beat of ‘Backroom’, but it’s short-lived and the tune is equally forgettable.


Perhaps the best song on the album ‘Put Some Color on You’ stands out in that it actually has some substance, driven by a funky bass and little touches of guitar (that despite the same mid-tempo disco beat common to a handful of the songs here) that lighten the mood and actually make you want to move rather than simply look cool.  ‘Can’t Stop Wanting’ that follows is also a song with a bit of spirit for it that leaves you wondering why they left it so late? It’s the same for closer ‘Prism’ which has a real drifting beauty. The supreme irony of it all is of course that these are the albums three bonus tracks – none of which are available on the standard release. It’s like some cruel joke!


It is worth noting that Blondie’s last outing ‘Panic of Girls’ had some great tracks on it, and that the best of these weren’t necessarily supplied by the nexus of Stein and Harry. This album is notable in that it is primarily written by the Stein/Harry partnership with Jeff Saltzman and Natalie Hawkins making a telling contribution.  Even the Katz-Bohen songs that recalled so much of the early band on ‘Panic’ don’t inspire here.


For me listening to this album is worse than finding out Father Christmas didn’t really exist. I’ve lost my faith in the one band I truly loved all my life. I can only lay the blame at Stein’s blind faith in the seemingly sterile talents of Saltzman and Hawkins and his reliance on them for the truly forgettable melodies that make this the only truly forgettable Blondie record ever.


A limited edition DVD release that adds a vintage CBGB set to the two discs shows you how much things have changed over those 40 years and also how essential early Blondie was, and still is.



Blondie Upcoming Live U.S. Dates:
05/24/14 Atlantic City, NJ @ Tropicana Casino & Resort
05/25/14 Bethlehem, PA @ Sands Bethlehem Event Center
05/28/14 New York, NY @ 92Y (Debbie Harry & Chris Stein in Conversation with Anthony DeCurtis)
10/03/14 Valley Center, CA @ Harrah’s Rincon

International Dates:
06/10/14 Stockholm, Sweden @ Cirkus
06/12/14 Bergen, Norway @ Bergenfest Festival
06/14/14 Esbjerg, Denmark @ Esbjerg Rock Festival
06/18/14 Amsterdam, Netherlands @ Paradiso
06/19/14 Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg @ Rockhal
06/21/14 Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain @ Azkena Rock Festival
06/23/14 Berlin, Germany @ Tempodrom
06/24/14 Hamburg, Germany @ Große Freiheit
06/25/14 Cologne, Germany @ E-Werk
06/27/14 Pilton, England @ Glastonbury Festival
06/29/14 Sheffield, England @ O2 Academy Sheffield
07/01/14 London, England @ Virgin
07/03/14 Barcelona, Spain @ Pedralbes Gardens
07/04/14 Herouville St-Clair, Normandy @ Chateau De Beauregard
07/07/14 Argelès-sur-Mer, France @ Les Deferlantes
07/10/14 Ottawa, Ontario @ Ottawa Bluesfest
07/11/14 Quebec City, Quebec @ Festival d’Ete International de Quebec
07/18/14 Pemberton, British Columbia @ Pemberton Music Festival
08/16/14 Chelmsford, England @ V Festival
08/17/14 Stafford, England @ V Festival
08/22/14 Paris, France @ Roc En Seine
08/31/14 Namur, Belgium @ La Fête des Solidarités



by Mark Rockpit