Blondie, Blondie

Ira Robbins

By Ira Robbins

on 05.18.11 in Reviews



The keys to Blondie's future success could be discerned on their 1976 debut, but not in the music's amateurish charm so much as in its highly marketable lack of rebellion. For an offbeat band emerging from an exotic underground, Blondie was less inclined to break rules than to embrace familiarity and make it cool. (Skinny ties were, after all, just a standard fashion given an ironic afterlife.) The album is spunky entertainment, in line with the young group's nostalgic fandom and divergent enthusiasms. From the liner notes: "Blondie hates fun, but they have so much of it that…this blonde has come to give you a ton."

Blondie’s debut features a marketable lack of rebellion

Singer Deborah Harry, perhaps practicing for her future as a movie actress, brings lighthearted theatricality to the innocuous attitude-mongering of "Rip Her to Shreds," "X Offender" and the West Side Story-inspired "A Shark in Jets Clothing." Matching the genial whiff of mock delinquency, the period sound by producer Richard Gottehrer (who had a personal hand in some important '60s records) is evocative rather than rote. So while keyboardist Jimmy Destri kicks in the needed dosage of classic Farfisa organ, he's unafraid to be modern, using majestic synthesizer for the surfin' sojourn of "In the Sun." Even if "In the Flesh" waltzes through a romantic cloud of cooing background vocals (including one of the Shirelles and Brill Building song legend Ellie Greenwich), it would never be mistaken for the Shangri-La's.

The brief album doesn't shine from end to end, which is its biggest failing. The lack of a dominant songwriter lends diversity — as well as inconsistency. Harry has credits on more than half the songs; Destri ("Look Good in Blue"), guitarist Chris Stein ("In the Sun") and bassist Gary Valentine ("X-Offender" with Harry) all contributed as well. A delightful start, but some fine tuning needed to be done.