Deborah Harry and Co return with Panic of the Girls
Kim Taylor Bennett
Panic of Girls 3/5 It’s easy to spend a lot of time opining on the perfection of premium-era Blondie. The band’s killer combo of sugary melodies, sexy snarls and neat guitar hooks. Their genre-defining blend of Lower East Side grit and DIY glamour. Their fierce frontfox who’s inspired pretty much every female singer since. Her tone! Her fashion sense! And let’s not get started on the angled planes of Harry’s face or the alluring upturn of her Cupid’s bow.
Flicking through the 132-page band retrospective that accompanies the collector’s pack of this LP is an access-all-areas treat (and is worth it for the pics alone), but the NY icons have set the bar so very high that they’ll only ever be judged against their best work.
Harry, Chris Stein and Clem Burke are back in the thrall of reggae rhythms and newly enamoured with horns and singing in a foreign language. When this works, it’s brilliant. Although the languorous ‘Sunday Smile’ is a Beirut cover, their rework could easily slot into a set of golden oldies. ‘What I Heard’ is a slick, synthy update on their old, new-wave stylings and ‘Horizontal Twist’ is a surprising grower: some kiddy-punk word association with a perky-perfect chorus. But when Blondie go off-course they drive the golf buggy straight into the lake.
‘Wipe Off My Sweat’ is an overproduced Spanish guitar jig that sees Harry cloyingly implore, ‘Papi, Papi’, before flipping between Spanish and English (with Beirut’s Zach Condon on horn). French vocals are go on the morose, accordion-accompanied ‘Le Bleu’, while closer ‘Mirame’ – another Spanish-sung moment – finds Harry inexplicably smothered in Auto-Tune. It’s like the musical wallpaper in a Benidorm bar. Not a finale we’re keen to linger on. Although this is a 50/50 split – good/tepid – we’d still go see Blondie live. In a heartbeat.