When I first saw the promo for Mother a couple of weeks back I was impressed at how Blondie had managed to pull something fresh and contemporary out of the bag yet again and was genuinely happy for this legendary band. Blondie has been in my ears for most of my life and PLASTIC LETTERS, although often overshadowed by it’s slick mega-hit follow up, is arguably one of the great albums of the 70’s.
But that was a long time ago and Blondie have to be admired for creating a new lease of life for themselves without relying on cabaret. PANIC OF GIRLS kicks off in fine form. D-Day is abrasive spiky pop and the synth driven What I Heard is everything you expect from a band of such distinction. It would sit comfortably alongside anything from their catalogue. The glossy Mother is deservedly the spearhead single and has the same charisma as Maria from NO EXIT had. If everything continued along these lines, this would be a stellar record… but no… instead we get The End The End which sounds like an Ace Of Base reject… dull and uninspired… and by the time the take on Sophia George’s Girlie Girlie rolls along ( by all accounts a shit song in the first place ), I find myself embarrassed to listen… I expect these sort of cod reggae cover excursions from UB40 but this is a new low. Love Doesn’t Frighten Me raises everything back to the standard of the first three tracks but things soon plummet again. Low points include Sunday Smile which sounds like something off THE HUNTER ( not a positive comment ) and Wipe Off My Sweat, a lame Shakira type effort. What’s in between is forgettable at best. The final track, China Shoes is a saving grace. It’s a slow burner but the guitars are chunky and it sounds very New York, which is after all the enduring identity of Blondie.
I don’t believe it’s an age thing and that they’ve somehow lost it. There’s plenty of evidence of creative life… Chris Stein and Clem Burke are huge talents and Deborah Harry still sounds amazing… maybe the problem lies in the songwriting credits, which are more scatty than a later day Ramones record, with a lot of external writers including one of the producers of the album. This is never a good idea, no matter what the credentials are. There were seemingly 35 tracks recorded for this album… What’s presented here cannot possible be the pick of the bunch. Last year Devo recorded a load of tracks and let the fans decide what to put on the album. Maybe not the path everyone should take but Blondie please take note, you are evidently capable of higher art than this lopsided schizoid mess. – BOZ