Blondie, Autoamerican

Ira Robbins

By Ira Robbins

on 05.18.11 in Reviews


a Petri platter of unprecedented stylistic ambition

For a group with a lot at stake, career-wise, Blondie showed a lot of guts in making Autoamerican, a Petri platter of unprecedented stylistic ambition. Rather than play it safe after losing Parallel Lines' commercial momentum with the similar Eat to the Beat, the group tried on all sorts of costumes, not many of which proved flattering. They did break through what was, at the time, rock's formidable resistance to hip-hop by making "Rapture" equally alluring and ridiculous, added a lone American voice to the 2 Tone ska revival by sashaying through the Paragons' "The Tide Is High," and played at American funk in the wah-wah bounce of "Live It Up." Even the galloping cowboy twang of "Go Through It" is amusing, as is the surfbeat pulse of "Walk Like Me." But experimentation is risky. The suave continental soundtrack (plus bewildering recitation) of "Europa" is a terrible opening track, and attempts to frame Deborah Harry as a chanteuse (in the mock mustiness of "Here's Looking at You," the lush cover of the show tune "Follow Me," from Camelot, and the smoky nightclub invocation of "Faces") only serve to highlight the thinness and stiffness of her singing here.