Sunday, 24 February 2019

Blondie - Parallel Lines

What is Perfect Pop?
This album must rank high up when trying to define such a thing.

Ostensibly seen as a Singles band (and there were some fine, fine singles - 5 of them going to Number 1), they also manged some darn fine, and consistent albums.

They were formed in New York in 1974, and graduated from the burgeoning New York at the time.
As a band they were not raggedy or rough enough for Punk, not arty enough for the Post Punk, and probably to Pop for Powerpop.

They took the best bits of history (Buddy Holly, Phil Spector, Girl Groups) mixing it with what is going on around them (Ramones, Talking Heads, Television and Patti Smith etc) and adding their own take on whatever genre/style they fancied.  Live appearances in and around New York, including CBGBs and Max's Kansas City, eventually resulted in a record deal (albeit a somewhat draconian one) with Private Stock Records.
Their debut album followed, but with no promotion from the Record Company it was not a success - apart from in Australia where the album went into the Top 20, and the single "In The Flesh" just missed the top spot.
Buoyed by the success, and with other record companies sniffing around, Blondie bought themselves out of their Private Stock contract and signed with Chrysalis.
The first output from this new relationship was the single "Denis" (Number 2 in the UK) and the album 'Plastic Letters'.  With a bit more Record Company support, a second single ("I'm Always Touched By Your Presence Dear"), and a string of TV appearances brought Blondie some success in the UK and Europe.
But they were just getting warmed up - I doubt anyone could've foresaw the success that was to come with their next album released in September 1978.

Preceded by the single "Picture This" (falling just outside the Top 10), it was perhaps the next single - "Hanging On The Telephone" - that heralded Blondie's arrival proper, and started to shift album in large numbers.
But it was the next single - "Heart Of Glass" - that sent the band properly global, topping the US charts, and resulting in Debbie Harry's picture adorning just about every music magazine, and probably a fair few teenage boys bedroom walls.
This single continues to be Blondie's most famous offering, and shows a band not scared to stretch their sound, and proves that Disco and New Wave can co-exist on the same record - and in another collision of "two musical worlds collide", Robert Fripp is drafted in for some guitar work on "Fade Away and Radiate".
With the success of "Heart Of Glass" not yet fading, another single soon followed (and another Number One single too) in the shape of "Sunday Girl".

'Parallel Lines' has no duff moments  - a couple of weaker moments in the shape of  "I Know but I Don't Know" and "Will Anything Happen?" perhaps, but not enough to make you reach for the skip button.
Alongside the band firing on all cylinders, is a gold-plated sheen provided by Mike Chapman's production.  He knows a bit about what makes a good pop song (indeed his writing partnership with Nicky Chinn is testament to that), but his input here is maybe just as important as the singer and the players.

1979 was shaping up to be quite a year for Blondie with the release of 'Eat To The Beat' later in the year (preceded by the single "Dreaming" which must surely rank as one of their absolute finest).
'Eat To The Beat' rose to the top of the charts. and takes what they started on Parallel Lines and pushes on going into funk and reggae territory without breaking sweat.  There are moments where the sound seems "forced" on 'Eat To The Beat', whereas 'Parallel Lines' just sound so effortless.

Hanging On The Telephone


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