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Blondie - No Exit Plus 3

  by John Clarkson

published: 17 / 12 / 2001

Blondie - No Exit Plus 3
Label: EMI
Format: CD


It is sixteen years since Blondie split up because, as they have since bluntly described it, ‘we hated each other’. Now four of its original members-vocalist Debbie Harry, guitarist Chris Stein, keybo

It is sixteen years since Blondie split up because, as they have since bluntly described it, ‘we hated each other’. Now four of its original members-vocalist Debbie Harry, guitarist Chris Stein, keyboardist Jimmy Destri and drummer Clem Burke-have patched up their differences and got back together. Original line-up bassist, Gary Valentine, despite working with the group on an unreleased recording when they first reformed, has, however, not been included. His eventual replacement, Nigel Harrison, and latter line-up second guitarist, Frank Infante, both of whom remain on acrimonious terms with the rest of the band, have also not been invited. Their places on new album ‘No Exit’, and a world tour, have been filled by new guitarist Leigh Foxx, and bassist , Paul Carbonari. Reformation albums and tours are a notoriously bad idea, often put together hastily in desperate financial situations with old frictions barely concealed, and the magic of the past lost in the resulting tensions. Blondie, however, despite being one of the biggest bands in the world in the late nineteen seventies, made little real money first time round as a result of a poor management deal, and perhaps deserve a second chance at fame more than most. All the remaining members of the group, with the exception of Destri who after recording a couple of solo albums took time out from the music business to bring up a family and to work in building, have also subsequently managed to build moderately successful solo and session careers. ‘No Exit’ , far from being a disaster, proves to be an inspired and imposing album, which manages to both nod discreetly at the past, but also to look effectively to the future . The chugging rock ‘n’ roll simplicity of ‘Maria’, their recent single and a number one hit in Britain, is only one of the many highlights on this eclectic album, and there are several other tracks as well which are of a similar high quality and vintage. The racy and strident ‘Nothing is Real but the Girl’, and ‘Under the Gun’ dedicated to and about the late Jeffrey Lee Pierce, the former leader of LA punk band ‘The Gun Club’ and a one time president of the Blondie fan club, like ‘Maria’, look back to the band’s New Wave roots. Both songs sound as convincing and as fresh as they would have done in 1977 or 1978, as if the different members of the group have each had a few weeks vacation from each other, rather than been away from for the best part of a decade and a half. ‘Out in the Streets’ goes back even further. A cover of an old ‘Shangri-Las’ tune, it was one of the songs they played on their first demo in the early seventies before the band even had a deal, and reprised here, is not only a splendid and timely attribute to the group’s own past , but also a fitting tribute to the sixties’ girls’ groups who particulary in its earliest days were a big influence on the band. The rest of the album, however, is more experimental, with the band, not content to simply rely on old formulas, trying their luck in a variety of different genres. Not of all it is by any means successful. ‘Happy Dog’ is a laidback and lazy blues number, with Harry’s lyrics a tiresome and shaky set of doggy puns. ‘Throw me some bone’ and ‘I’m going to wag for you, baby’ are about as subtle as they get. The last track ‘Dig Up the Congo’, a chanted stomping number with spiralling tom tom beats, and a lyric about voodoo, zombies and the jungle, is fun at first, but, like a lot of novelty records, also quickly loses it appeal and soon runs out of steam. For every bad track, however, there are several more good ones which more than adequately compensate. The dynamic title track mixes a Hammer House of Horror organ with a rap between Harry and guest artist, Coolio. ‘Forgive and Forget’ is aluscious and rattling dance groove, with a funny and wonderfully spoken word introduction from Harry about ‘the essence of power’. ‘Double Take’ in complete contrast is a melodic and gentle love song, a perfect song to end the day , with floating keyboards, adulatory vocals and a saxophone solo at its end from Candy Dulfer. ‘Night Wind Sent’ is in the same vein, dreamy with popping shimmers of synthesiser and a vocal from Harry at her most desirous and seductive. The haunting ‘The Dream’s Lost on Me’ is, however, a country barn dance waltz, complete with banjos and fiddles, and ‘Boom Boom in the Zoom Room’ meanwhile forays into slinky lounge jazz, with Harry in a raised slightly shrill voice revamping the work she has done with side project jazz purists, ‘The Jazz Passengers’, whom she has worked off and on with since the early nineties. This is a fine album, a record of contrasts in which Blondie never lose sight of their original aims, but one too in which , rather than playing it safe and sticking simply to the tried and the tested, and raking over and recycling previous glories, they branch out and move into new territories and directions, and still more often than not hit their intended targets. There is also with the compact disc of ‘No Exit’ for those who want more, and who hurry or look hard enough, a specially limited four track compact disc with recent live recordings of ‘Call Me’, ‘Rapture’, ‘Dreaming and ‘Heart of Glass’. It is great to have this band back, and in such startingly good form.

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