Reviewed: Blondie – Against The Odds: 1974 -1982
By John Earls | January 5, 2023
Blondie’s long-delayed boxset is well worth the wait (and the weight), reaching beyond the golden hits to show how inventive the New Yorkers really were
Although Parallel Lines often features in lists of all-time classic albums, there’s a perception around Blondie that, like Madness or Squeeze, they are more of a singles band. Blondie made iconic singles, but all you need is a hits compilation, because they were too dilettante to produce LPs worthy of those 45s.
The band aren’t bothered by the notion: Chris Stein told Classic Pop that TikTok has helped show you can cut songs into 30-second chunks and still make great art, so who cares how long your best work is? The guitarist can afford to be magnanimous. He knows Blondie continue to create sublime records, with Pollinator one of this century’s great pop LPs.
As for Blondie’s first incarnation? This gargantuan 18lb boxset, arriving four years after it was first announced, perfectly shows the hard work behind the glamour. Surely Blondie couldn’t look that cool and be one of New York’s most industrious bands? They were. Suck it up. Alongside the original six albums are four LPs of rarities and an illuminating eight-song 10″, Out In The Streets, comprising Blondie’s earliest demos. It includes The Disco Song, a functionally titled early version of Heart Of Glass. Blondie had it going on from the start, and most bands would have revisited the catchy Sexy Ida or The Thin Line.
The band could afford to forget such potential gems. Their biggest skill – which critics were suspicious of – was enthusiasm for anything exciting. Under Richard Gottehrer’s admittedly scrappy production, Blondie and Plastic Letters feature rock and roll, Wall Of Sound dramatics plus funk and disco, under the punk dynamic.
Once Mike Chapman took over the reins as producer, the band had the discipline to hone their varied ideas. Parallel Lines’ successor Eat To The Beat is just as thrilling, albeit edgier in its streamlined chaos. Autoamerican might be even better than Parallel Lines, Blondie’s futurism meeting their pop nous head-on to result in a dazzlingly diverse album.
After dispersing for assorted solo LPs, by The Hunter even Blondie couldn’t agree on what band they wanted to be anymore. Tellingly, there are few outtakes, but beyond its laughable artwork, there’s a handful of classic pop moments. One patchy album out of six isn’t bad, and those rarity records – demos by the dozen, B-sides, unreleased songs – are excellent.
There are two books, one telling Blondie’s story in an honest, punchy fashion, the other a discography guide with sleeves to die for. It comes as a 10LP or 8CD set, or with just the rarities on vinyl or CD for existing fans. As with Blondie’s music, this box is how it should be done.