Reviewed by Margaret Moser, Fri., Dec. 10, 2004
BlondieSingles Box (EMI)
"Hey, pssst pssst, here she comes now." With that come-hither intro for 1976's "Rip Her to Shreds," Deborah Harry became the queen of New York New Wave, a title she still holds in her lacquered-nail hand. "Blondie is a band" the attendant press was quick to assert, yet the sextet was first and foremost Harry's girlie voice and fabulous face mile-wide cheekbones, glossy kiss-me lips, model-perfect eyes, and trademark two-toned hair. The Singles Box captures Blondie's zeitgeist with great élan on songs such as "Denis," "Picture This," "Heart of Glass," "Hanging on the Telephone," and "(I'm Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear." Their bright, poppy dance music fused girl-group lushness and Sixties garage rock fervor in the early days of punk, for Blondie was punk more by association than intent. The songs shimmer and pulse relentlessly; these were 45s, designed for maximum punch and sales. The 15 CD singles drawn from Blondie's six LPs are packaged exactly as they were as singles, the box set strikingly designed after the band's 1978 monster Parallel Lines album with its bold black and white stripes. Only problem with that singles concept on CD is changing discs every few minutes. No liner notes to ruminate about the 43 tracks within, but five versions of "Call Me" speak for themselves, in Spanish too. Though "Call Me" was the band's great moment, electronically throbbing with life and sending them up the charts, Blondie wilted afterward. They bravely brought rap to white America ("Rapture"), but dabbling in reggae ("The Tide Is High") was lethal for the band. Their second-to-last single, "Island of Lost Souls," became a metaphor for their direction while their final single, '82's "War Child," was a return to form too late. For all their bleached-blonde brashness, Blondie lived up to its potential, only to become passé until the patina of nostalgia shone again. No wonder their 2004 CD is titled The Curse of Blondie.