Friday, March 24, 2017

Songs About People # 330 Julius Caesar


This must be about the man, at least in some obscure sense! The stabbed in the back line of the opening lyrics. Ty Segall garage power!

  

Album Reviews # 64 Dream Syndicate - The Days of Wine & Roses


  So, while we're here, a re-post for this:

' The early eighties Paisley Underground Scene of guitar-led garage bands was a particular movement. Based around a set of like-minded and mutually supportive souls, looking more to the sixties than the seventies generally, it produced a bunch of good to middling records and perhaps one album that verges on greatness, the debut outing from The Dream Syndicate, The Days of Wine & Roses.



Built around the songwriting and vocals of Steve Wynn, but very much a group effort, it was recorded in a couple of days in late 1982 and released later in the same year. Very much indebted to the methedrine intensity of The Velvet Underground, there's even a slower Nico / Mo Tucker track, sung by bassist Kendra Smith. Wynn became increasingly defensive in response to the inevitable comparisons, (they did after all take their name from the original pre-Velvets grouping), nevertheless, it's certainly much more than mere tribute, sounding very much a West Coast record rather than an East Coast one, drenched as it is in Hollywood paranoia and cinematic angst, A series of well-crafted and impressively delivered songs of guitar adventuring.




The band draw on Punk and New Wave in addition to the sixties. Wynn and lead guitarist Karl Precoda duel in a manner not dissimilar to Television's Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd but their interplay is intentionally more ragged and open-ended, (and occasionally awash in feedback), than that band's recorded output and nods its head to Crazy Horse, Dylan and Creedence too, while The Fall were also an influence that Wynn has repeatedly mentioned in interview.   He was also apparently an avid fan of Postcard Records, Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes. He applies his own, half-spoken, drawled vocals, telling a set of  tales of vague, existential dread of lives spinning irretrievably out of control, played out under the unrelenting Californian sun. In addition to all this, the album acts as something of a pre-cursor to Sonic Youth, who were just forming at the same point and preceded to take things to an altogether more unhinged extreme in the following decade.



The Days of Wine & Roses, seen on its own terms, is a pretty much perfect guitar album. Never quite as inspired as Reed, Verlaine or Young, Wynn's songs nevertheless operate highly efficiently in their slipstream and Precoda's playing particularly elevates the record to its own equisite heights.It very much sounds like the work of a band on the uneasy cusp of adulthood and laying down their own path.



Setting off with the creamy Tell Me When It's Over, each track on here keeps up the pace and occasionally, when the band really let rip, they set down a template that has barely been matched since. Wynn is an observer of life's strange tribulations, troubled, but also detached and occasionally the band lock into an inspired almost jazz like hazy, opiate groove.

  

Going at cross-purposes to much of the New Wave which was turning on mass towards synth-pop, The Days of Wine & Roses revisits and renews the glorious potential of guitar driven Rock and Roll. The Dream Syndicate were far from alone, at least in the States. The Replacements, R.E.M. Husker Du and The Minutemen along with countless others had embarked along similar roads but they were all very much underground concerns at this point, with the possible exception of R.E.M. who immediately began making chart inroads the same year with the release of Murmur.



The Days of Wine & Roses is a record with limited commercial appeal. The Velvet Underground, regardless of Wynn's protestations, the guiding influence of everything on here, were never meant to top the hit parade. Nevertheless, the record did open up a whole field of exciting possibilities which those with like-minded sensibilities leapt on, in Europe as well as the States.



When I personally started hearing this music myself, round about the time, when I was forming my own taste and starting to buy my first records, it was a revelation. The influence of Punk was beginning to dim, with 1982 and New Pop probably its last direct immediate impact on the mainstream. The Smiths emerged to offer an alternative route along with The Go-Betweens, Prefab Sprout, Aztec Camera, The Triffids and Lloyd Cole & the Commotions but there were also all of these American bands, though, again with the exception of R.E.M. they didn't gain much footing over here except for touring occasionally in small halls to appreciative audiences.



Several of the other Paisley Underground bands were worthy of note. The Rain Parade, True West, The Long Ryders and The Bangles for example. But it was The Dream Syndicate who most successfully built a bridge from the sixties to the eighties with this record. Sadly they never quite matched it, signing to A&M and worked with big-hitting producer Sandy Pearlman on their second album The Medicine Show. In comparison with their first outing, they worked painstakingly on the record's sound but despite having great moments, (it's a fine 'nearly' record, particularly the mighty John Coltrane's Stereo Blues), overall it failed to match the sustained, inspirational peaks of its successor. The Days of Wine & Roses remains the band's definitive statement. It still sounds quite wonderful today, more than thirty years on!




* For an excellent account of the record an its context, see this Uncut Magazine review


30 Days of Songs Dean Wareham Covered # 23 The Dream Syndicate


From a record very highly rated by Wareham. More Dream Syndicate coming up next!

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 660 Fats Domino



March 24th 1938 Holger Czukay


Song(s) of the Day # 1,160 Philip Lewin


A 1975 Private-Pressing record of only 300 copies now to be re-released on the Tompkins Square Label . A thoughtful and wonderfully crafted album from a singer-songwriter in the Fred Neil, Tim Buckley and Rodriguez vein. Beautifully dappled songs which are meditations on the nature of existence and all that we do, and a quest to make some inroads on what it's all about,  Am I Really Here All Alone, seems a well judged title.


Rodriguez is the comparison that really comes through to me on listening to this. Not all of the songs are perfectly formed, there's a ragged, demo-ish character to them which somehow seem to indicate why Lewin garnered little attention first time round. You can almost visualise Lewin back then, playing to a slightly inattentive audience in a New York Coffee House on a quiet weekday evening.


Those who were paying attention were onto something nevertheless. The sheer quality of the songwriting and delivery here also goes some way to explaining why they're deemed worthy of renewed attention. This would be a purchase that you wouldn't regret. Nice!


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Things Found on My Local's Jukebox # 198 Inspiral Carpets


Perhaps the best Inspiral Carpets song. Value for money at Rosie's tonight as we got to witness a jolly good bar fight along with the good conversation and ale.





David Bowie



Kevin Morby


'There is a fortress. Round my heart. 'Til death do me part...'

New Kevin Morby which is something to be celebrated. His album Singing Saw was one of my very favourite records of last year. This song, Come to me Now, goes ahead of his fourth album City Music,and augers well for that release. I just listened to  it and then had to go back and listen through to it again. Always a good sign! Oh and the promo is wonderful.

Songs About People # 329 Bjorn Borg


'Nimble-witted new wave pop and junky keyboard links since 1997'. That's Madison Wisconsin's The German Art Students. Or just plain odd. Dependent on how you look at it.
.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 661 Chuck Berry


30 Days of Songs Dean Wareham Covered # 22 The Red Krayola


The Red Krayola, among the ultimate sixties American cult bands, possibly because a lot of their output isn't particularly listenable. Galaxie 500 chose to cover this, one of their most approachable numbers.

March 23rd 1968 Damon Albarn


Song(s) of the Day # 1,159 Valerie June


One of the greatest things about doing this blog for me personally, has been that over the weeks and months that I've been writing it since I started in June 2013 I've gradually become oriented to the here and now in terms of what I listen to and appreciate musically. What began as essentially a nostalgia exercise for me to shuffle through my record collection, jot down my thoughts, ideas and memories about the albums I loved in the eighties, eventually made me more contemporary in terms of what I seek out and enjoy and subsequently post.




Now, I consciously look out for what new music is coming out every Friday and consequently have realised what a broad range of wonderful music is being made in the here and now, an idea I would s probably have been cynical about through ignorance back in 2013. Take Valerie June's fifth album  The Order of Time, (just out), for example. In many ways it's not a 'new' record, steeped as it is in classic soul, cajun and mountain traditions although they're updated skillfully through modern recording values. What brings it all together is Brooklyn based, (does everybody live in Brooklyn nowadays?), June's beautiful lived in voice and wonderful smart and warm and slightly quirky), songwriting talent. Astral Plane, (posted above), is sure to be one of my favourite songs of the year. The rest of the record is brilliant too. An album of consolation for the moments when you need it.



Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Songs Heard on the Radio # 193 The Vasellines


Made famous by Nirvana of course. But The Vaselines version is also pretty good!



Patti Smith


Coming up next month. Billed as Patti Smith's last ever concert in Australia. Supported by Courtney Barnett. Lucky Melbourne! 

Songs About People # 328 Jean Genet


One of the leading icons for twentieth century alternative counterculture lifestyle. Jean Genie was apparently written for him. The likes of Patti Smith and Bobby Gillespie swear by him. Here, Brazilian band Capital Inicial pay tribute on their 1999 record Atras Dos Olhos.


The Heart of Rock and Soul # 662 Marvin Gaye


30 Days of Songs Dean Wareham Covered # 22 Michael Holland


One of Wareham's more obscure cover selections. 

March 22nd 1958 Pete Wylie


Song(s) of the Day # 1,158 Ron Gallo


Philadelphia's Ron Gallo has a full and slightly forbidding Afro. In the grand tradition of The MC5 and At The Drive In. Their's is a musical seam he definitely mines as well, (lots of seventies New York Punk here also), all loose street, cocksure attitude, which goes back beyond these to the Bob Dylan of Subterranean Homesick Blues and sixties garage which are surely his original sources. 


On his new album, the just released Heavy Meta, (geddit!), he makes a strong case for this stuff being as relevant now as it's ever been. Opening track Young Lady You're Scaring Me sets off with a riff that's pure Nuggets at which point Gallo releases a rock and roll howl that let's the listener know exactly where we all are if we weren't fairly sure already. If you have Richard Hell & the Voidoids, The Cramps or Mink De Ville in your collection, you're going to feel perfectly at home here.


If Gallo is somehow working from a similar template and set of ingredients to Courtney Barnett, (she made this kind of loose garage married to modern sentiment relevant again a few years back), he's is definitely an angrier, grittier Barnett, hailing from downtown rather than the suburbs, and emphasises his edge by adding a bit more blues to the mix than she ever did, some Jack White and some traces of Zep.


It's a record that's a bit pick and mix with regards to my personal tastes. Some tracks work better for me than others but Gallo is clearly a talent and Heavy Meta a record I'm sure to return to. For me he's at his best when he's either at his most punkish or at the opposite end of the spectrum at his most thoughtful and laying off the guitar heroics. The best song on here for my money is final track All The Punks Are Domesticated which I can't post a direct link to but which you can find here, which is pretty much a state of play address for where we find ourselves in 2017. The lyrics say much of what needs to be said!






The Heart of Rock and Soul # 663 Koko Taylor


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Things Found on My Local's Jukebox # 197 Grandaddy


Five days from seeing Grandaddy. Strangely, since we're in 2017, one of the greatest bands on the planet. Still! Odd turn of events.






Songs About People # 327 Ned Kelly


Why was Johnny Cash so good? It's impossible to put into words really. Here the whole Ned Kelly story is effectively told in two minutes and eighteen seconds.


30 Days of Songs Dean Wareham Covered # 21 Young Marble Giants


Bristol's pioneering and defiantly low-fi Young Marble Giants were quite an influence on Wareham. Here's a single of their's, from the early eighties where they articulate that post-nuclear dread that was so prevalent at that point in time.

March 21st 1940 Solomon Burke


Song of the Day # 1,157 Fleet Foxes


The comeback song from Fleet Foxes after six years away. An album is also forthcoming. This is a nine minute track, (or conflation of tracks) called 3rd of May / Odaigahara about the friendship of singer Robin Pecknold and guitarist Skyler Skjelset. It's a thing of rare beauty and seems destined to be one of 2017 most memorable tracks.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Shame


New young London band Shame were Song of the Day on here a few weeks back. Here's their new song Tasteless out soon on on Fnord Communications. The band are all nineteen year olds and this is all highly promising! Anger as an energy.



Songs About People # 326 Daft Punk


LCD Soundsystem, the ultimate hipster ironists. Are Daft Punk actually playing at their house? We'll probably never know.


30 Days of Songs Dean Wareham Covered # 20 Jacky


An instantly recognisable theme tune from a children's TV programme to anyone who grew up in Britain in the sixties and seventies. Covered by Dean & Britta.

March 20th 1917 Vera Lynn


The Heart of Rock and Soul # 665 The Spinners


Song of the Day # 1,156 Spiral Stairs

'I'm going to Aberdeen. That's where they set the scene...'

Scott Kannberg, formerly of Pavement, has a new album out shortly, called Doris & the Daggers. Kannberg moved a few years back to Brisbane, Australia and according to Keith Cameron, who wrote the review in a recent copy of  Mojo, the change has impacted positively on his work, with elements of the sensibility of The Go-Betweens and Flying Nun popping up in his sound. That's  good news to me. Here's the outlier of the album, a song called Dundee Man a wonderfully crafted sunny pop indie thing, with typical nonsense Pavement lyrics, (Kannberg is certainly no Dundee man, apparently it's about a fishing holiday he took in Scotland, but what do specific details really matter here!), and a beautiful ringing riff. that's reminiscent of The Chills at their peak. I look forward to hearing its parent record.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Things Found on My Local's Jukebox # 196 Chuck Berry


A song for Chuck Berry. It has to be said, his songs sounded wonderful coming out of the jukebox tonight! Just watch this clip of him playing Back in the USA on the Dick Clark Show. It tells such a story of times gone by.




Songs About People # 325 Stendahl


While we're talking contemporary British punk bands, here's another IDLES. Their new record gets a bit samey in its relentless thrashing after a bit but one track at a time it's fine. French novelist Stendahl described encountering Giotto's frescoes for the first time as follows: 
'
'I was in a sort of ecstasy, from the idea of being in France, close to the great men whose tombs I had seen. Absorbed in the contemplation of sublime beauty... I reached the point where one encounters celestial sensations... Everything spoke so vividly to my soul. I had palpitations of the heart, what in Berlin they call'nerves'. Life was drained from me. I walked with the fear of falling.' 

Hence Stendahl Syndrome, which was given a name in Florence again in 1979 after a doctor noticed similar physical and emotional reaction among any number of tourists to exposure to the city's artworks. IDLES sing about a rather less positive, but equally overpowering response to Modern Art.



Cabbage - Gibraltar Ape

'I wanna be as free as a Gibraltar ape...'

Cabbage, one of the more interesting new young British bands around and their new song and video which pretty much stands as a state of the nation address.

30 Days of Songs Dean Wareham Covered # 19 Adam Green


Formerly of the Moldy Peaches, Adam Green's solo albums are a bit of a treasure trove though you have to sort your way through some nonsense to unearth the gems. Here's one!

March 19th 1959 Terry Hall


The Heart of Rock and Soul # 665 Clarence 'Frogman' Henry


Song of the Day # 1,155 Curse of Lono


Haunted by the ghost of late sixties voodoo Stones, Curse of Lobo are a London band setting off, who take their name from a Hunter S. Thompson book. It's literary and tells of good record and book collections, and thinking through what they're doing, some of it is a bit mannered for my taste, but this, Five Miles, from the band's debut EP from last year ticks all the boxes.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Chuck Berry 1927-2017



Songs About People # 324 Klaus Kinski


More Rough Trade artistes, New York's The Prettiots, from their rather lovely album Funs Cool which came out last year. Here they pay tribute to one of the most distinctive screen presences of all.


Benjamin Booker


Benjamin Booker is back soon with an album called Witness, with here the title track as its trailer featuring Mavis Staples. It's more widescreen, explicitly soulful and ambitious sounding than his eponymous debut album from two years back, less garagey too but my experience of listening to it for the first time a few minutes back was that it certainly stays in your head and echoes back to you once it's done.

March 18th 1941 Wilson Pickett


30 Days of Songs Dean Wareham Covered # 18 Kraftwerk


Luna do a rather beautiful version of this classic from Man Machine, which is available on the cover version disc of their Best Of CD.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 666 Bobby Day


Song of the Day # 1,154 Pulled Apart By Horses


Leeds Pulled Apart by Horses don't do anything new. This is unreconstituted, loud Grunge guitar music for people to throw themselves about to with abandon at rock gigs. They do what they do well however and with obvious relish. Here's the opening and title track from their new record.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Real Estate - In Mind


In the late nineties I went with my sister to one of the better bills of bands I've witnessed at the Brixton Academy; Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, Cornershop with Teenage Fanclub in their middle of the road pomp headlining. It was a great evening and all three bands put on a good show. But as we left my sister said concerning the headliners, 'I wish they'd go a bit Pixies sometimes. A bit grrrrrr!'.



Well that's what you get with Teenage Fanclub, and that's what you get with Real Estate two decades on. They're the band that refuses to go grrrrrr! New album, In Time, (just out), is actually incredibly reminiscent of Teenage Fanclub, not just in terms of its general template, (Byrdsy chiming is at the base core of everything that's going on here), but also in the basic sentiment it conveys, the idea that life is ok and it's going to remain ok.


That's fine, and we all need records that sound a bit like this sometimes, little happy pills. That said, it hardly makes In Time much of a soundtrack for 2017 except perhaps as a soundtrack for those quiet millions who never have any intention of ever voting. While other contemporary musicians are making albums more specifically for these troubled times, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Rhiannon Giddens and Priests, (who I'll get back to soon), Real Estate, (that name really, is that what they'd have done with their lives otherwise?), are staring at the sky and watching cloud formations.



It would be surly to cut them down merely for this response to life, certainly as it's important to state that they do it all very well. Re-grouping and coping with the loss of founding member Matt Mondanile who has decided to concentrate on his project Ducktails instead, they're managing fine.  There's a defining sameness about their music but it's a highly comforting sameness. The ringing riffs they build many of their songs around are reliably sturdy in that Byrds tradition that Big Star, R.E.M and the Fanclub built on. Now I really love that stuff, but even for me at points of listening through to this for the first time I did think, 'Oh come on, cut loose a bit' particularly when they do divert off that beaten track into brief early seventies guitar heroics. Eagles territory. I'm with the Dude on that one!



I have a colleague at work whose favourite expression is, 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it!' Which she repeats as if it's a mantra. Real Estate are quite definitely of this mind. In their universe, life is to be wondered at if not entirely engaged with in all its messy contingency. Everything is going to be alright. I hope they're right. In Mind, is a fine, melodic album to wile away the best part of an hour with. It breaks no moulds. Personally, I think it holds its ace up its sleeve til last with Saturday, the final trackwhich I think is the best song on the record. The moment where  the sun breaks through the clouds and you get your transcendental moment. Epiphany! I recommend the record with the minor caveats listed above. For the most part it's a box of chocolates, like its sleeve, and we all like chocolates don't we? Real Estate are craftsmen of solid aural furniture. For once I think I'll grade the album, something I generally avoid on here but it seems apt in this case. A seven out of ten record. Clever boys, but could try harder!




Songs About People # 323 Sean Connery


Very nice jingly-jangly thing in a Smiths vein from the James Dean Driving Experience and 1990 in honour of the best Bond.


30 Days of Songs Dean Wareham Covered # 17 Donovan


The B Side to Hurdy Gurdy Man. Covered by Dean & Britta. Somehow Donovan is a natural source for Wareham.

March 17th 1944 John Sebastian


The Heart of Rock and Soul # 667 Etta James


'Etta made her excursion to Muscle Shoals during a brief intermission from heroin addiction, and turned out one of the best two-sided female soul singles of all time. The hit was Tell Mama but the unforgettable side was I'd Rather Go Blind, a more languorous version of the Southern soul groove. Although she came from California by way of Chess in Chicago, Etta sang those Muscle Shoal blues like she'd been born to them. Of course, the fact that the song provides a great metaphor for her drug addiction intensifies the story, even if lyrical discretion requires replacing smack with booze. But what you're here for is just as much Jimmy Johnson's great guitar and the grand Bowlegs Miller-led horn section.'



Song of the Day 1,153 Freddi Henchi & the Soulsetters



An explosive riff that wouldn't put the Rolling Stones of this period to shame and then Freddi Henchi does his thing. Good times to be had in Denver in 1973! In other news, it's almost the weekend!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Songs About People # 322 John Foxx


From The Magnetic Fields new record 50 Song Memoir a year by year recovery of his life. This is 1983, and a tribute to John Foxx. Certainly one of the more bizarre albums you're likely to hear this year!


The Heart of Rock and Soul # 668 Elvis Presley


March 16th 1936 Fred Neil


30 Days of Songs Dean Wareham Covered # 16 Beat Happening


Luna kept playing this wonderful song from Beat Happening all through their career as their end of gig song. Much to be said about it, but in the meantime, you get the R.E.M cover instead!





Song of the Day 1,152 The Halo Benders


Northwest American ensemble get meaningful in 1994!



Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Things Found on My Local's Jukebox # 195 U2


A good friend of mine and a big supporter of this blog posted a message to me on social media  about The Sound and The Comsat Angels and their early records. They're bands who historically got caught in the slipstream of the Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes, Simple Minds, New Order and everyone else in that scrum of groups who gathered, and rushed past them towards their moment in the pop sun. And most of all U2, who soaked it all in and eventually hit the payload for all this sound had to offer while inadvertently selling it out at the same time. I don't care for this band, but I do care for their first album, Boy a lot, which I think is a still remarkable document of the painful and unique journey of adolescence. It will never be really cool, probably because of the later exploits of the band, but it's always there! Back to The Sound and Comsat Angels when I've had time to re-listen to their records. I'm fairly sure the friend I refer to earlier would heartily disapprove of even the slightest endorsement of this particular band I imagine!




Songs About People # 321 Andrew Eldritch



Perhaps we all need to go back home eventually. Andrew Eldritch evidentally thinks so. He's moving back to Leeds, according to the taster song from Mountain Goats, Goths which is out in May. According to the writer of the song John Darnielle: 

'I imagine one of my teenage heroes, Andrew Eldritch, returning to the town where the band worked and played when they were young. His friends give him a hard time about ending up back where he started, but not because they're mad: it's good to see an old friend wearing the marks of time on his hands and face like well-loved tattoos. So shall it be in these times: your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions, and Andrew Eldritch whose music has reached spirits in every corner of the globe, will move back to Leeds.'


30 Days of Songs Dean Wareham Covered # 15 The Rutles


From The Rutles Yellow Submarine Sandwich, Galaxie 500's version is well worth posting too, so here you go! 



March 15th 1944 Sly Stone




The Heart of Rock and Soul # 669 Jesse Belvin


Song of the Day 1,151 The Pretenders

'Yeah. I like it!'

From Debbie Harry it feels fairly natural to move on to Chrissie Hynde. Alone, the opening track from The Pretenders album of the same name from last year. The song has a downward sliding riff that sounds like a close cousin of Werewolves of London. Chrissie does her best Lou / Iggy spoken drawl, (that was always the tradition she drew on most), and speaks/ sings of the pleasures of solitary life. It's good so see a song in honour of this for a change. The song itself is pure old school street poetry and all the better for that. Also here, an added Pretenders related bonus, from Lost in Translation.





Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Album Reviews # 65 Blondie - Blondie

        And to complete the set, a review I wrote last June...



        And to complete the set, a review I wrote last June. Blondie sound forty years down the line entirely the most spontaneous, best fun and least pre-meditated of all the first wave of CBGB's bands. Their first album is still a thrill! Released just as '76 turned to '77, it's melodic and amped, with a poetic, caustic edge but not a note of pretension. Influenced by Warhol of course but not noticeably by The Velvet Underground, more informed by Surf, Spector, British Mod, Girl groups, and Pop with a capital 'P' and fronted by the most attractive woman ever to lead a band of any kind, and also one strangely devoid, even to this day, of egotistical posturing, despite her natural, arresting beauty.

'I saw you standing on the corner. You looked so big and fine. I really wanted to go out with you. So when you asked to go out with me. I laid my heart on the line.'

Twisted yet pure urban romanticism has never been nailed to the mast quite so definitively as by the opening lines of this record. With the initial  Be My Baby drumroll and then Debbie Harry's voice cutting in a brief but devastating way. 'You watched my heart burst then. You'd step in...' We've all had these moments and won't forget them. X Offender is unsettling, given its subject matter, but that's what early Blondie were about, and in the promo for the song, (posted above), you can witness the unmistakable tension within the band itself that was smoothed out shortly after the album's release by the exit of Gary Valentine, who co-wrote the song. He and Stein vie for attention on the camera lens throughout the clip and it seems that one of them had to go and of course it was always bound to be Valentine, leaving the stage to Harry and the rest of the band's gradual relegation to becoming her backing group with all the inevitable tensions that would ensue from that point on.



'She loves you right now. So don't close your eyes. She'll be talking and laughing with six other guys.'

Little Girl Lies is more conventional and less tart. A classic if safe choice for second song on the record. Chorused by cheesy sixties handclaps and Jimmy Destri's Farfisa organ coming to the fore at its most Wooly Bully and 96 Tears. It's conspicuously throwaway and asexual. Nobody's favourite Blondie song but disliked by few either I imagine and paving the way for the gradual assertion of Harry's persona over the course of the rest of the record. This, naturally was always Blondie's trump card.


'We're walking one day. On the Lower East Side...'

This assertion begins to set in with third track In the Flesh, Blondie's first real hit of any kind, if only in Australia, but it set the bandwagon rolling. This is definitely Spector, though more explicitly seventies, and it laid down the blueprint which the band would go to work on and improve and subsequently storm the global pop charts over the next few years. But it's really all here. With the sign off line, 'Warm and soft. Close and hot...' Harry signaled her intent to be direct but alluring, distanced herself from the band's obvious sixties roots and set themselves forward as a different and more immediate and highly sexual proposition. It would take a while for the message to truly hit home.

'You look good in blue. It matches your skin. Your eyes dripping with pain...'

Look Good in Blue is back to more comforting territory. Not a 'get together' or 'break up' song. Just maintaining the relationship with the listener with a string of compliments. The band laying back and immersing themselves in the joys of their record collections. Learning their craft in a way that again would serve them well further down the line.


'New York is covered by grey. Concrete piles. Blues play my way...'

In the Sun is back on the attack. Blondie understood the joys of the beach and surf sound in a way that none of the bands apart from them, save The Ramones, did. Perhaps that was the bond between the two of those groups. This stuff was deliberately throwaway. An understanding of a certain core of American Pop Culture that Patti Smith, Television and Richard Hell never really touched on, so keen were they to tap into the European poetic literary culture and a point of removed cool. Blondie didn't aspire to this at any point of their careers. Never straying for a moment from the street, the bar, the sun or the dancefloor. From the directly accessible and immediate.


'We're meeting in a neutral zone: the last car on the train.'

A Shark in Jet's Clothing lays down their schtick explicitly with its obvious West Side Story borrowings, finger clicks and whistling. So much of early Blondie is unashamed pastiche. Lifts from New York culture but with an emphatically light and poppy touch. Three minute melodramas which make you understand why they were never taken entirely seriously by their CBGB contemporaries with more serious pretensions but also giving you an insight as to why they outlasted them all commercially, so broad and well-versed were the sources of their initial inspiration and what they chose to do with them.



'Yeah, I've been sailing the sea of love. Experiencing romance. With what I know, he never stood a chance...'

So to Side 2. They're not hanging around here. Harry is backed on first track Man Overboard as on In the Flesh by Ellie Greenwich, Micki and Hilda Harris veterans of the classic sixties girl group sound the whole record is so deeply versed in. Here she takes the femme fatale role she was frankly born to play. She'd been in girl group territory before of course with previous bands Wind in the Willows and The Stilletoes, Blondie with time would refine the inspiration and make it their own. There's the briefest hint of reggae in the guitars here which would also feed into the original version of Heart of Glass. Also the vaguest hint of Prog stylings with Destri's synth breaks. But it's all highly efficient, chopped and minimal. They're virtually inventing New Wave, at least two years before its proper arrival.

'She looks like the Sunday comics. She thinks she's Brenda Starr. Her nose job is real atomic. All she needs is an old knife scar.'

To Rip Her to Shreds, probably as close to Punk in the conventional sense as the band ever came. But it's no thrash, Blondie were always too tasteful, not to say able for that. It's an acid, catty putdown of a female rival and it's great to see Harry flexing her claws. Backed by the mass slurred boy backing vocals that would become another of their trademarks, the lyrics are wonderful in documenting the CBGBs scene that Blondie grew from. The nicer but not altogether nice little sister of I Wanna Be Your Dog.


'If I lose my head, we'll be certainly dead. With visions of acid. How I wish they bled.'

Rifle Range is one of the record's finest tunes played out to probably it's sloppiest, least coherent lyrics. Never mind, you can't really hear them anyway and it works fine as a piece of music. Blondie jumped in terms of content from tales of romance, to espionage, to life on the mean streets. All pulp paperbacks, B-Movie features and trash TV, they were a less surly and better groomed Ramones. And ultimately, much to that group and particularly Johnny's chagrin they had an altogether better understanding of the Pop world they sought entry into and how to force that entrance. Blondie is very much an apprenticeship for what came next. Although it took them a while to distance themselves from the slight disdain some of their contemporaries at CBGB's viewed them with, (Patti Smith and Television particularly, both bands pilfered early Blondie band members), everything they achieved with third album Parallel Lines is rooted here, just waiting for the guiding input and touch that Mike Chapman provided there.



'Down in Chinatown, (the year of the cock). He sold the silver belt, put it in hock.'

Kung Fu Girls is almost a scene from Tarantino. He didn't get here first by any means. Blondie, in their appreciation of Trash Culture, knowing exactly just how throwaway and disposable it all is and just as importantly what rich source material it offers for truly great pop music, were way ahead of the pack though they've never really got the credit they deserve for it in the eyes of the 'serious' rock critic. Both Charles Shaar Murray and Nick Kent, the dons at The NME at the time, remained slightly sniffy about them. But they were wrong. No-one had ever done this in quite the way they were doing it. Lester Bangs to his credit did fully appreciate them and lionised them for it. It's Pop Art in the truest sense, Blondie, more than any of those great seventies New York bands understood where Warhol was coming from and packaged themselves and their songs accordingly to appeal to a broader audience than the literati and the rock snobs. The cleverness of this trick is to pull it off and retain a central, keen intelligence. They would never lose it.

'Giant ants from space. Snuff the human race. Then they eat your face. Never leave a trace.'

Blondie would refine and revisit these same themes and melodic tricks over the coming years as they ascended to the fame their leaders looks and sheer charisma always offered as a prospect but which they would never have achieved without the required team ability, looks of their own and no little drive. They would never be as purely Pulp as here though ever again. This is one for their fanclub. Blondie is thirty three minutes long, plays at thirty three and is a better guitar and synth driven pop album than any young band is likely to put out in 2016. That's rather sad but also probably rather true!