I didn’t grow up with Blondie like I should have. With their biggest hits accessible enough for mainstream radio, and my dad buying a Greatest Hits record, it’s kind of weird I don’t know them better. But he bought that compilation in my mid teens and they were always too recent to be played on the oldies radio I grew up with (and too poppy/new wave to be on the classic rock radio I switched to in my teens). Anyway…
I like left turns by bands. Even when they are into styles I don’t necessarily love, I still generally respect the attempt. But it’s hard to evaluate a left turn when you don’t know the band well enough. It’s also really hard to judge a left turn when that left turn is towards the mainstream or towards conventional pop.
Now, that’s not entirely true of this record. Certainly “Europa” makes you think this is going to be an ambitious record. And “Rapture” is notable for being perhaps the first ever hit to contain rap. There are signs of an attempt to do something different and unique compared to the rest of their catalogue (as far as I know). (The intro to “Angels On the Balcony”, for example, sounds like honest to god new wave.)
But the rest of the record is the opposite: multiple covers (including one that became one of their biggest hits) and multiple songs that Harry and co. seem to have designed to show that she really can sing. (Also “Call Me” was written later and not included. So it’s really the hits that stand out.)
The whole thing is quite retro, with the obvious above exceptions. And it feels like a band that doesn’t know what it wants to be. So many American bands were going retro at this time, but few were going this retro.
It’s a bizarre album, even more so for being a success. It’s a testament to the band’s and Harry’s popularity that this mess of a record was a hit. (I think people just like “The Tide Is High” a lot.)