Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Blondie - Autoamerican

Year: 1980
Genre: New Wave

Highlight Tracks: "Angels on the Balcony", "Do The Dark", "Rapture"
Weak Tracks: "Here's Looking At You", "Follow Me", "Faces"

This is an uneven album. A full quarter of its tracks end up on the "weak" list due to silly style choices. The rest of the album works but sounds like it is from a bunch of separate recording sessions with different producers and guest musicians. As an album I don't think it really works or flows. It sounds too confused.

It opens with the epic instrumental track " Europa" that makes you think you are settling in for a Blondie concept album. The track borders on musical science fiction. The disco-inflected "Live It Up" is a good track but brings the listener back to normal Blondie territory rather quickly. The illusion of a concept album is then completely shattered by the 1920's style of "Here's Looking At You"; an awful stylistic misstep that is only saved by Debbie Harry's unrelenting charisma.

The middle section is the album's saving grace. This strong core of five songs are classic Blondie and a joy to listen to. "The Tide is High" is one of Blondie's enduring hits with its Caribbean horns and lazy summer daze tempo. "Angels on the Balcony" opens with a weird Devo-esque prelude but then turns on the pop charm with its dreamy vocals and new wave instrumentation. I think this song is the best example of Blondie as a band on Autoamerican. "Go Through It" and "Do The Dark" are both strong Blondie toe-tappers that deserve to be spotlighted since they are usually lost to obscurity by being on one of their lesser albums. "Do The Dark" in particular should be resurrected to show all the Goldfrapp fans how it's really done.

"Rapture" is my favorite Blondie song. The music is crazy good and Debbie Harry's vocals and sex appeal are out of control. The song's first section alone would stand as one of Blondie's strongest offerings. The addition of the early hip-hop tribute on the song's tail-end is pure genius. It shows how tiny the NYC music world was back in the swirling chaos of the late 70's but also how fun it must have been. The lyrics of Debbie's "rap" are insane nonsense as she plays around with the 'new style' emerging from the NYC playground battles between the Sugar Hill Gang and The Furious Five. It is such a weird thing for this model-looking-but-punk-at-heart girl to do. It is even more bizarre that the song works so well. "Rapture" is a classic tune.

The four songs that close the album swing drastically from fun to atrocious. "Faces" and "Follow Me" are just terrible songs with Debbie Harry singing torch-style over snore-inducing music. Maybe these two songs are Blondie's nod to Broadway; if that's the case then there are some things that even my musically open mind can't stomach. "T-Birds" and "Walk Like Me" however are both decent new wave tunes that keep the album's second half from completely plunging into a self-indulgent audition for Cats.

1 comment:

Mickey said...

Hey that's a great review of Autoamerican. You really got the nuts and bolts of it. I just listened to "Angels on the Balcony" by itself for perhaps the first time ever and agree that it is a terrific and highly underrated song. I also always liked "Walk Like Me," and needless to day, "The Tide Is High" makes this album worth owning. I too love "Rapture," but it sounds like you "got it" earlier on than I did.