I guess the first time that it happened to me was the day I bought my pristine copy of Pink Floyd's Division Bell
. I was a freshman in college, and had whiled away my high school years reveling in the geek rock classics of a previous generation. The fact that Floyd was releasing a brand new album had me pretty enthused; after all, these were the guys who had written fuckin' Dark Side of the Moon
The experience of buying it was great. The listening, on the other hand, was...less so.
This was the way that I learned that every great band has an expiration date, a date that I saw overtake any number of the bands I had grown up with. U2 met Zooropa, for instance, and REM was eventually struck down by the mediocrity of Reveal (I know many of you believe some album prior to this one signalled REM's downfall. It turns out that you're wrong).
And so we come to Blondie, a band that had the decency to break up before they started embarrassing themselves, and then reunited in 1999. While I didn't pay that much attention to Blondie's initial reunion, I thought that "Maria" single was pretty pleasant, and it's always nice to see women of a certain age still rockin' it. Now I find myself faced with the responsibility of reviewing their second post-reunion effort. And it's...better than Division Bell, at least.
The opening track will have you wondering what they were thinking, though, as Debbie Harry tries her hand at the white chick rapping thing again. While "Rapture" had novelty going for it, "Shakedown" just sounds like a band trying to be too young, and too clever by half. Fortunately, things improve immediately -- "Good Boys" is a classic, sexy, disco-infused Blondie track. Sure, there's a little too much production smoothing out the chorus, but it certainly has a beat you can dance to.
Curse continues in much the same way -- one step forward and one (or one-and-a-half) steps back. "Rules for Living", despite its touch of pretentiousness ("There's my dream of Egypt / I'm the color of the Nile / You're a Roman soldier / It's a small world after all") is an effective, sweepingly dramatic track whose chorus makes the most of Harry's throaty vocals. "End To End" sounds as if it might have come from the band's classic material -- the guitars drive, the drums throb and the production is far less invasive than it is on the rest of the album.
Overall, though, there's not quite enough to justify the addition of another album to the Blondie catalogue. It's great to hear that the group can still produce potent songs this long after their inception, but it might be time for them to hang up the Blondie moniker and bask in the glow of their influence and success. Like Floyd should have, circa 1984.