Blondie, Parallel Lines

Ira Robbins

By Ira Robbins

on 05.18.11 in Reviews

Parallel Lines: Deluxe Collector's Edition


Emboldened by mounting success and buoyed by a stabilized six-piece lineup, Blondie made its third — and finest — album with British glam-pop maestro Mike Chapman (Sweet, Suzi Quatro), a shameless-but-savvy Top 40 button-pusher suited to the group's growing professionalism and ambition. Together, they embraced the allure of chart-pop's heritage with a minimum of actual nostalgia.

A virtual master class in full-color MTV pop

Freed of any obvious stylistic obligations, Parallel Lines has the impatience of a teen trying on clothes. There's boppy twee ("Pretty Baby" and the winsome "Sunday Girl"), peppy rock ("Hanging on the Telephone" and "Will Anything Happen," both written by ex-Nerves guitarist Jack Lee), catchy nonsense ("One Way or Another"), Berlin-era Bowie atmospherics ("Fade Away and Radiate") and, most shockingly at the time, disco. Credit Blondie's creative courage and prescience that "Heart of Glass," which was a divisive breach of new-wave faith at the time thanks to the percolating sequencer line and Clem Burke's lisping high-hat, now sounds as timeless and right as the cover of Buddy Holly's "I'm Gonna Love You Too," which follows it.

Given all the styles it encompasses, the album could have been chaotic, but judicious song selection and Deborah Harry's relaxed singing ties it all up in a pretty bow. Made by recent graduates of New York's rock fringe — the first to sell themselves to a mainstream audience — this thoughtful but harmless set of tunes is a virtual master class in full-color MTV pop.