November 17, 1998
Blondie (Beyond 63985-78003-2),
I'm suspicious of "reunion album." Most of this comes from the fact that I'm suspicious of the music industry in general (Spice Girls, Bush, Kenny G -- need I say more?). When I received my copy of Blondie's NO EXIT I looked at it with a skeptical eye. As much as I hate my favorite bands of the past splitting up, I hate even more the fact that prodded by large sums of cash and forked-tongued record promoters many bands go back into the studio to revive the "magic" that once made them great. I made an exception for Blondie, because "Heart of Glass" was the first song's lyrics I ever committed to memory, Deborah Harry still gets me tingly, and I like having my name in print.
Blondie still puts out the energetic, invigorating pop that made it so popular in the 70s and early 80s. If you're looking for an album that revives the old style Blondie, keep looking. This album shows a band that has changed over the years. "Maria" reminds the listener of the femme lyrics and blended musical elements that secured Blondie's place in pop history. "Forgive and Forget" displays the band's talent of creating dancey, vibrant tracks that mesh well into the modern music scene. The lyrics are still ironic, sexy and sometimes poetically pop: "If you forgive me, my ferocity, I will forgive your sweetness..." "Nothing is Real But the Girl" captures the girl-in-front attitude that reminds us Blondie was pouring the foundation for lead-girl groups like No Doubts and Hole.
The band continues to experiment with various musical elements. "Boom Boom in the Zoom Room" plays with a jazz sound, while "Happy Dog" has a nice bluesy groove. "The Dream's Lost on Me" is a country-western satire. Chris Stein's guitar is piercing. Clem Burke's percussion styling is smooth and Jimmy Destri's keyboards lend a suppleness to the tracks. Deborah Harry is still potently sexual and melodic. She still looks good in leather too.
I was disappointed with "No Exit," the title track. Harry teams up with Coolio for a rap extravaganza that seems geared more towards cross-marketing than musical integrity. There are one or two weak points in the album, most notably "Double Take," which has its heart in the right place but seems a bit contrived. The other tracks have enough power to push the listener through unworried.
Blondie ultimately seems concerned with putting out a good album. There are no acoustic renditions or remixes of old classics. Instead, they pour themselves into the mainstream and move ahead of the horrible pop that is prolific these days. After all, where would pop be without Blondie?
-- Jason Ladner
SB1: A SKIBOARDING JOURNEY,
Various Artists (Overall Entertainment R2 75665),
SB1: A Skiboarding Journey touts itself as "The Tightest Extreme Sport Soundtrack Ever!" Sprinkled with artists like Mo Thugs, Master P, Sublime, Blink 182 and Fat it comes off as a typical soundtrack: a collection of mediocre tracks by various artists thrown together to inspire hordes of a market audience to buy the film and soundtrack.
There are a few decent spots in the album. NOFX does a moderate job with "Liza." Blink 182 tries with "Enthused." Hieroglyphics is entertaining with "The Who," a typical we-bad-song but spiced with an intelligent mix of street lyrics and college vocabulary (How many rap artists use the word "cosmonaut" and "dividend"?). Even Sublime's "Superstar Punami" provides an amusing bit of head- popping.
The album is definitely "tight." In fact, I thought it a little too tight. A little more attention to detail and variety might lend SB1 more artistic appeal and less stifling, money-market appeal. I'm a firm believer that good music sells itself.
Don't get me wrong. The album is a decent listen the first two times. After that, the initial glow wears off and all but the most dedicated of listeners will probably retire it to the used music store. But, if you're looking for a sample chock full of rap, punk and an occasional ska sound, pick it up.
-- Jason Ladner