No Exit

Blondie

Beyond Records, 1999

http://www.blondie.net

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/25/2010

Blondie is without a doubt one of pop music’s finest ever bands. In their heyday, they could do no wrong, fusing punk attitudes with pop sensibilities, New Wave with rock, and even cutting the odd country and rap songs. Few women have been as idolized as Deborah Harry, the stunning and charismatic blonde leader of her group of mod-inspired rockers. 

Throughout the ‘90s, however, Deborah was also an in-demand actress on the independent circuit and occasionally recorded and performed with Elvis Costello and his Jazz Passengers.  As the decade grew to a close, Harry and former flame and best friend Chris Stein had been increasingly in contact with Jimmy Destri and Clem Burke, the subject of reforming the group never far from their minds. 

The remaining original members Frank Infante and Gary Valentine were never really in contention for various reasons, so when the Blondie did officially reform in late 1998, it was with Leigh Foxx on bass and Paul Carbonara on guitars; both are still permanent but not official members of the band.

The result of the reformation became a big hit album that spawned a number one single and took the band on their first world tour in seventeen years. No Exit still stands today as one of the band’s most ambitious albums, and although it happens to be my personal favorite, it isn‘t their greatest achievement (but topping Parallel Lines and Eat To The Beat was never going to happen anyway).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The disc kicks off with a self-indulgent and erratic ska track called “Screaming Skin.” The song itself is grating to say the least, and the ridiculous lyrics are completely incoherent from the “multicellular individual” to the “hemodynamic connection,” but I love every second of it. 

Next up is Stein’s “Forgive And Forget,” which has a cool, ambient groove that the band do really well, although lyrically it again reveals nothing of interest. This is really where Harry’s voice makes the moment above everything else; her days of singing with the Jazz Passengers really gave her a lot of confidence to explore her range and develop her phrasing. Few could pull off a song like “Forgive And Forget,” but Harry nails it with ease. 

This baby really kicks off with the third track, Destri’s pop gem “Maria,” which quickly shot to #1 in the US and several other countries. Harry’s commanding performance really shows off her impressive range, and this one is still one of their best singles to date. The title track is a rocker that channels the rap fusion of “Rapture” and features Coolio on guest vocals. It’s my favorite track on the album, as it shows what this band is capable of when they are focused and pushing themselves for greatness.

The prettiest song on this release is the Harry/Stein penned “Double Take,” which is absolutely stunning. “Nothing Is Real But The Girl” channels “Sunday Girl” from the band’s heyday, and it’s just as fun and carefree.   Harry shows off her jazzy chops to stunning effect with the sly jazz groove of “Boom Boom In The Zoom Zoom Room,” which is nothing if not pure indulgence – but it’s great fun too. “Night Wind Sent” is gorgeous and the retro pop of “Under The Gun (For Jeffery Lee Pierce)” tells the tale of The Gun Club singer’s adventures superbly.

“Out In The Streets” is a great cover of The Shangri-La’s original and fits well with what’s on offer here. “Happy Dog (For Caggy)” is a song about, well, shagging: “Come on now, throw me some bone / I’m ripping up your song / I wanna be your dog / Skinny or fat, I’m gonna go with that and chase your pussycat.” Harry revels in her wicked splendor and delivers the song with conviction. 

The Australian release of this album tacked three live tracks from the comeback shows to the end. As great as they are (a ripping cut of “Call Me,” a masterful version of “Rapture,” and le coup de gras, “Heart Of Glass”), they really weren’t necessary, since No Exit gets the job done on so many levels and remains one of Blondie’s most powerful efforts to date.  

Rating: A-

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