The legendary NYC rock band Blondie has been around long enough to have had by now not one but two different reunion incarnations. The first came in 1997, with the unexpected release (and success) of No Exit. The reformed band, featuring four of the original six members, took six years to record a follow-up, the smartly-titled but less successful The Curse of Blondie. Shortly thereafter, they lost original keyboardist Jimmy Destri to rehab. Another hiatus ensued, until the remaining threesome—Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, Clem Burke—were roused into action by the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the release of the group’s breakthrough album, Parallel Lines, in 2008. Word at the time was that the band, reformed with two new members, was working on a new album, which eventually became 2011’s Panic of Girls, another mixed bag at best.
So what’s a long-time fan to do? Blondie in their heyday were sensational, but their heyday was 30 years ago. It’s weird enough when our rock heroes grow old but it’s one thing when they’ve been making an effort to stay in the musical stream of things, so we can kind of (sort of) get used to their aging (Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan and Paul Simon are the models here). It’s another thing when they disappear for 20 years or so and then come back and say “Here we are!” when it’s not at all clear who “we” are, and where exactly “here” is. I found one song on The Curse of Blondie I’ve wanted to listen to more than once or twice (“Rules For Living”). Panic of Girls struck me as okay but unremarkable, but maybe I’ve haven’t given it enough of a chance. Thing is, I’m not sure I’m as happy, yet, listening to Debbie Harry’s 65-plus voice as I was her 30-something voice; the change is subtle but noticeable. But I’m going to stay with her still because, well, she’s Debbie Harry for crissake.
And so, finally, we arrive at “Bride of Infinity,” one of three songs the band abruptly released as free and legal MP3s this month. A spacey, meditative thing with a heavy-guitar core, the song features Harry in dreamy mode, voice further altered by distortion. This is an effective sound for late-era Blondie, especially when coupled with the kind of strong melody that made their best songs so deeply pleasurable. This one is an unusual six measures long, with an instant repetition; thoughtfully-paced, the melody glides fully up and down the scale, using all eight notes (where one and eight are the same note, an octave apart), which is both graceful and uncommon. There is no chorus, just two instrumental breaks in between the three run-throughs of the verse, and get a load of that second instrumental break (2:20), an understated world-music hoedown featuring what sounds like a sitar and some alternative percussion. Blondie was always at its best when flaunting a humor so deadpan you can’t always be sure it’s even there.
You can stream and/or download all three new tracks via the band; one of them is a cover of the David Essex nugget “Rock On.” Note that I’m offering the MP3 above as usual but I will encourage you to use the widget below for downloading because I’m not actually sure I should be hosting this but I felt compelled to. Having Blondie on Fingertips is an honor.