Review Summary: The return of Blondie (again).
Blondie as a band is, of course, of a legendary status at this point. Fronted by blonde bombshell Debbie Harry, the band has dabbled in everything from punk, pop, jazz, synthpop, reggae, and even featured one of the first white girl raps on their fantastic song “Rapture” (I guess you could say we have Debbie to blame for Iggy Azalea). Since their introduction in the 70’s, the band has had broken up and reformed, more or less with all the same members intact, multiple times over the decades. That then brings us to 2011, where we see Harry and her crew, back again for yet another comeback album.
With Panic of Girls we see the band at their most pop sound yet. Now, to many that itself may frighten them off from ever wanting to listen to this. The album is very much a synthesizer affair, but definitely nowhere near the intense dance music that was dominating the airwaves at this time. (Thank god they didn’t try to do dubstep). One of the most appealing aspects of Panic of Girls though is the high energy the music carries. When all the members of a band are inching closer to 70 years old, it is refreshing to see songs with as much ability to jam like, “What I Heard,” a hyperactive pop rock song with one of the catchiest choruses of the bands career. Likewise with the lead single, “Mother.” Now, normally I would not want to reference band member’s ages like so, because hey, if the music is good enough then why should it matter? Blondie is a special case though because they so consciously make a point to show that their ages do not matter and they can still pump out music like it’s 1977.
The synthpop nature of the album does start to feel a little tiring after awhile though. The album is structured in a way that it starts out with the most high-energy songs and gradually declines to more groove based sound. While it is nice to see Blondie dabbling in reggae again, a sound they pull off pretty well, some of the songs that have both great lyrics and great rhythm are really dragged down by an over use of synthesizer. “The End The End” for example has such a nice sound, but just feels drowned out by a synth wash that overtakes the whole song. Conversely though, “Girlie Girlie” sounds refreshingly clean featuring strong guitars and a pleasant marimba breakdown calling back to “The Tide Is High” prowess.
Frankly when it comes down to it, it is not surprising that Panic of Girls was more or less ignored by the popular music scene. It is almost a guarantee that the only people that bought/downloaded/listened to the album where people that were already fans of the band, not to mention all the singles released from it went more or less nowhere. The album is truly nothing groundbreaking, but that should not imply that it is not an enjoyable listen periodically. Blondie is, and certainly always will be a great and fun band exploding with the personality of Debbie Harry, and while Panic doesn’t even come close to holding it’s own against albums like Parallel Lines and Autoamerican, no one ever said it had to.