1978, Music

Parallel Lines (1978) by Blondie

My dad bought a Blondie compilation sometime in my teens. It was a double disc. So I feel like, to the extent I know Blondie, it is through that compilation. Had he bought it 10 years earlier, I would likely know all their hits very well. Alas, he bought it a few years before my graduation, if memory serves, and so I only got a limited amount of exposure to them.

Of course I knew their biggest hits from radio, but only a couple of them. And I never thought about them much until my dad bought that CD.

From this old, limited impression, I concluded that Blondie were the poppiest and safest of the early American New Wave bands. The songs I heard of theirs were so poppy, I sort of assumed they came a long a little later, in that post-Cars era where people realized they could add a touch of quirk to regular rock music and get celebrated as part of the “new wave.”
But no, this is their third record and it’s only summer 1978. They are one of the originals, though listening to a record like this it is, at times, hard to tell.
Blondie mostly write pop songs, but they’re energetic and I guess that meant they were “punky” to older people back then. And they came out of the new wave scene and associated with those people.

But honestly finding traces of new wave is pretty hard, with the exception of “Fade Away and Radiate,” which features Robert Fripp doing his thing, which makes the music sound very different than your average pop ballad. The reggae touches on that song and others also add to the sense that this is something “new.”

But I don’t really buy that. To me, it’s well made power pop with only the faintest connections to punk and new wave. In the sense of the former it has a lot more in common with UK new wave, which was more of a “energetic rock music that’s not punk” genre than American new wave, which was super weird.

Sorry to obsess over this, but it’s a pet peeve of mine, the number of bands labeled new wave. Anyway…

The songs are pretty damn catchy, even the non-hits. It’s easy to understand why the band was so popular. And the arrangements are well done and, as I alluded to earlier, have enough different things going on in them – Fripp, synthesizers, non-rock accents – to fool people into thinking this music is as weird and original as Talking Heads or Pere Ubu or Devo. (Needless to say, it’s not.)


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