I don’t know if there was a heavy contingent of people eagerly anticipating the return of Blondie, or whether the forthcoming Panic Of Girls is considered Blondie to them, since it does not include longtime member Jimmy Destri. I myself went into the record with hesitation, as I liked the single from 1999’s , “Maria,” but wasn’t thrilled with the rest (and The Curse of Blondie did absolutely nothing for me either).
It may have been those lowered expectations that helped win me over, for while I cannot say Panic of Girls is a great record, it is okay and that certainly was more than I initially thought I’d grant it. What the band has presented is a credible representation of new wave music in the year 2011, complete with some heavy, thick synth blasts while not forsaking the guitar.
There are some things that are wrong with the disc, leading to my iffy reception. For instance, the track “Wipe Off My Sweat” just lays there in its bilingual heap, as does the initially promising but eventually tedious “Le Bleu.” “Girlie, Girlie,” while only being three minutes and change, feels like it goes on forever. The lyrics for the majority of the songs aren’t particularly memorable either, but Blondie originals got by on attitude, and not so much on lyricism (see “Rapture” for details).
There is the other wrinkle where Debbie Harry doesn’t quite sound like Debbie Harry anymore. The true curse of Blondie is that, to this day, you can’t go into a department store and not eventually hear “Heart of Glass” or “The Tide is High,” and so Harry’s timbre is permanently engraved in the memory of pop music fans. To hear her now is to have to reckon that those songs are twenty-five to thirty years old, and that slight hollowness and husk to her delivery is just how age works.
And yet, Harry, even in what I consider a diminished form, can still sing it and sell it. She almost sounds to me like Ronnie Spector now, and if your voice has to age, that’s not a bad direction to fall toward. Also, the first single is an interesting chunk of modern pop, and to these ears “Mother” has a chorus pattern not dissimilar to Katy Perry’s “Hot ‘n Cold.” “What I Heard” and “The End, The End” work for me too, and the cover of Beirut’s “A Sunday Smile” is also not without its charm.
Does Panic of Girls stand up to AutoAmerican, Eat to the Beat or Parallel Lines? No, nor could anyone really expect it to. While Panic of Girls is on, however, I don’t particularly mind it, and that alone makes it respectable. Had I not received this for review purposes, I cannot say I’d buy it, even though I’ve listened to it for a week. It doesn’t attain must-have status. For the band’s die-hards, what is here might be enough, but the strong pop moments on the disc allude to what might have been, and that could have been a much more satisfying return.
Panic of Girls is available from Amazon.com