James Christopher Sheppard
reviews Panic of Girls
After some record company issues spanning almost a year, Blondie independently release their ninth studio album, Panic of Girls, on 4th July 2011. For die-hard fans, the special collectors edition of the album is available in UK from the beginning of June, complete with a 132 page magazine featuring an exclusive glance at the story behind the album, images, interviews and an overview of the band’s incredible career. So how does it sound? Impressively, Blondie seem to have come up with their freshest sounding collection of new songs in years. Panic of Girls furthers Blondie’s domination over the new wave genre and brings them into their fifth consecutive active decade as a band.
Establishing Blondie’s new sound as evolved and as edgy as ever, ‘D-Day’ is an up-beat, synth-tastic, addictive opening. This song has more punch than ‘Maria’, with an athemic chorus, big beats and Miss Deborah Ann Harry’s voice sounding young and passionate. Fans of early Blondie will go crazy for this. 9/10
‘What I Heard’
The second offering continues the up-beat new wave electro feel of ‘D-Day’. ‘What I Heard’ is catchy, punchy and would sound brilliant on radio. Definitely a contender for a single. 10/10
First single from the album, ‘Mother’, is a great tool for getting lovers of Blondie and new listeners alike excited about the new album. With a simple video featuring the band performing the song in a zombie-filled club, that is exactly what ‘Mother’ is about, a band clearly having fun and loving what they're doing. 9/10
‘The End The End’
The fourth track takes the album in a completely different direction, but doesn’t stray too far from the many incarnations of Blondie over the years. ‘The End The End’ is the first of many chilled out, laid back reggae tinged song made for summer listening. Harry stays in the higher register of her voice here which gives a really old school Blondie feel to the song. 8/10
Continuing the summery reggae vibe, ‘Girlie Girlie’ includes some of the funniest Blondie lyrics I know of, and even includes a cheeky giggle from Harry a couple of verses in where she is clearly acknowledging the ridiculousness of what she is singing. The giggle and the tongue in cheek lyrics make ‘Girlie Girlie’ a great and memorable, feel-good moment so far. 10/10
‘Love Doesn’t Frighten Me’
Back to a more contemporary Blondie sound, ‘Love Doesn’t Frighten Me’ rocks the tempo back up to where the first three tracks left us. Following the reggae break, this is a decent example of the band rocking out. 7/10
‘Words In My Mouth’
The first song of the album to slow the tempo right down doesn’t do an awful lot to further the album, but isn’t what I’d call bad, just possibly a tad paint by numbers and not terribly exciting. 5/10
Back in mid-tempo-ville comes another reggae tinged number which is easy on the ears, featuring plenty of brass and a laid back atmosphere. Not bad, but not as strong as the previous reggae moments. 6/10
‘Wipe Off My Sweat’
Following two slightly tired moments, ‘Words In My Mouth’ and ‘Sunday Smile’, ‘Wipe Off My Sweat’ saves the album from trailing off and throws some fun and frivolity back into the mix. Don’t ask me what is being sung, because I haven’t got a clue, but the Latino beats and almost entirely Spanish lyrics sound pretty damn wonderful. 8/10
The multi-language theme now turns to French, and it surprisingly really works. I have rarely heard albums where the use of other languages has worked so well. ‘Le Bleu’ sounds authentically like a French classic already. A beautiful highlight to the album. 8/10
The final song is a solemn slow ballad that casually builds around the guitar and Harry’s yearning for her lost love. ‘I left a note on the back page of your book’ she sings as she asks her past love to remember her. Universal regret is always a great closer. ‘China Shoes’ is a fine moment on an already solid album. 7/10
The Verdict: At 65, most of us hope to be collecting our pensions and waving goodbye to work altogether, but Debbie Harry and the rest of Blondie are not only still rocking out, but they are doing it just as well as they did over thirty years ago. Panic of Girls is a brilliant addition to an already glowing discography that should find Blondie new listeners as well as keep their loyal fans happy. We should also just mention that Panic of Girls features some seriously cool artwork. 8/10
Panic of Girls will be released in the UK on 4th July 2011 through Eleven Seven/EMI and as a special deluxe fan pack in certain stores on 1st June 2011 through Future Publishing.
James Christopher Sheppard is a freelance music critic based in Hull and London. His website is called Intellectual Intercourse.