(U-WIRE) VILLANOVA, Pa. — The long-awaited return of the heavily publicized rock/pop group Blondie is finally over. The group has hit the music circuit again with its first new single, “Maria,” which is being widely played on radio stations everywhere.
But for all the effort, this new album, No Exit, still falls short of the glory of the band’s previous recordings, much to the disappointment of millions of Blondie fans.
“Maria,” one of the more up-tempo songs on the album, seems to be a hit with fans. It was probably released first because of its contemporary hit potential. A song with a good beat and plenty of strong guitars, it gives listeners a taste of the strong voice of the Debbie Harry of the ’70s and ’80s. Her voice on this album is more tame and quiet, without the passionate edge that attracted listeners to Blondie.
The album contains a great variety of music, ranging from the pop sounds of “Maria” to the slow crooning on “Divine” to “The Dream’s Lost on Me,” a song with a western theme. The group shows versatility in the range of music it creates. “Divine” has a sensual theme with Harry’s voice deep, slow and thick. The lyrics to “The Dream’s Lost on Me” seem to be a testament to the staying power of the group throughout time.
The title song of the album, “No Exit,” features guest artist Coolio rapping with Harry. However, as another famous band once said, “it’s all been done before.” The rap aspect of Blondie’s music rose in the ’80s, and now fans want to hear the strong crooning of the singer, not the rapper.
The first two tracks of No Exit also have a darker feel. “Screaming Skin” and “Forgive and Forget” are by no means slow, but both have a morbid undertone in both music and lyrics. This theme tends to permeate the entire album. In “Dig up the Conjo,” Harry sings of a little girl saying, “Mommy, do you see that man?” While the mother replies, “It’s only a zombie, honey. Don’t look in his face.”
“Boom Boom in the Zoom Zoom Room” is an unexpected bit of ’60s music that makes a listener think of dark, smoke-filled lounges in black and white. Slightly sexy and mysterious, this song is one of the few worthy of being a Blondie hit.
“Night Wind Sent” is a love song about chasing dreams, but the music is reminiscent of the late ’70s/early ’80s Fleetwood Mac sound.
Probably the best part of the album is the hidden bonus track at the end. Made into three tracks that run continuously into each other, it is a compilation of old Blondie hits recently done live. “Call Me” and an extended version of “Rapture” are the closest the album gets to the old Blondie.
“Rapture” is definitely the better of the two live performances. Harry’s voice does not seem to get as high or as strong as it used to, and “Call Me” lacks the conviction of its older recordings.
Blondie still has the musical versatility that made the band popular for two decades. But if listeners are looking for that strong female voice that made them sing at the top of their lungs in the car when it came on the radio, they should look elsewhere.
-by Eve Pridmor, The Villanovan
This article appeared in the March 29, 1999 issue of the Hatchet.