entertainment

Blondie Against the Odds: 1974 - 1982 review: 'First six albums have never sounded better'

A new remastered box set of Blondie’s first six albums, rarities and unreleased tracks is the ultimate celebration of the new wave legends.

2022-09-15

Words: Simon Button; Images: Supplied

It’s as impossible to overstate Blondie’s brilliance as a band as it is to categorise them into an easy-fit box. New York upstarts paying tribute to 60s girl groups, punk rockers with a pop sensibility, early adopters of rap on ‘Rapture’, appropriators of disco on ‘Heart of Glass’ and rocksteady reggae on ‘The Tide is High’… Blondie were all these things and more during their imperial phase. 

And it’s impossible to overrate Debbie Harry - who reflects on Blondie's legacy in an exclusive interview in the Attitude September/October issue - as a frontwoman with a standout voice and a seductive swagger shot through with a knowing sense of humour and an ownership of her sexiness. Gorgeousness is a gift, not a talent, but Harry burst onto the scene in the early-70s as a new kind of pop star - as uniquely sounding as she was nonchalantly beautiful, as gifted a singer and co-songwriter as she was ready-made for TV and video, as rooted in feminism as she was flirty with it.

Madonna has since admitted to being hugely influenced by Harry, saluting her wits and street smarts, as have Cyndi Lauper, Garbage’s Shirley Manson and Elastica’s Justine Frischmann among countless others. 

Let’s not forget, though, that Blondie have always been a band not an individual, albeit a band with the sense to place their most charismatic asset front and centre. Members have come and gone but co-founder and guitarist Chris Stein has been a constant, as has drummer Clem Burke. This trio are the foundation of a musically mercurial group whose evolution is chronicled in new boxset Against The Odds 1974-1982 that, in its fullest forms, is beyond comprehensive.

There are slimmed-down vinyl and CD editions for fans who just want previously unreleased tracks, demos, outtakes and the like, whilst the 12-LP Super Deluxe Collectors Edition and 8CD Deluxe Edition are treasure troves that both come with a hardback book that dives deep into the making of Blondie’s first six albums.

Meticulously remastered from the original analog master tapes, said albums have never sounded better - whether it’s 60s-influenced debut Blondie, punkier follow-up Plastic Letters, the pop perfection of Parallel Lines, rock-tinged Eat to the Beat, esoteric Autoamerican or even the messy and half-hearted The Hunter, which marked the end of their imperial phase before Blondie bounced back 17 years later with 1999’s No Exit.

As a singles band they’ve had few equals, although as noted in the accompanying book their America homeland was surprisingly late to latch on that fact. As an albums band, as they candidly admit across the book’s essays and Q&As, they’ve sometimes fallen short of their lofty ambitions but they were (and indeed still are) propelled by a sense of adventure that’s truly rare in mainstream music.

Rating: 5/5

Blondie Against The Odds 1974-1982 is out now as a Super Deluxe Collectors’ Edition as well as Deluxe 4LP, Deluxe 8CD and 3CD editions