Sunday, June 26, 2011

BLONDIE - Panic of Girls ( ElevenSeven 2011 )


When I first saw the promo for Mother a couple of weeks back I was impressed at how Blondie had managed to pull something fresh and contemporary out of the bag yet again and was genuinely happy for this legendary band. Blondie has been in my ears for most of my life and PLASTIC LETTERS, although often overshadowed by it’s slick mega-hit follow up is arguably one of the great albums of the 70’s.

But that was a long time ago and Blondie have to be admired for creating a new lease of life for themselves without relying on cabaret. PANIC OF GIRLS kicks off in fine form. D-Day is abrasive spiky pop and the synth driven What I Heard is everything you expect from a band of such distinction. It would sit comfortably alongside anything from their catalogue. The glossy Mother is deservedly the spearhead single and has the same charisma as Maria from NO EXIT had. If everything continued along these lines, this would be a stellar record... but no... instead we get The End The End which sounds like an Ace Of Base reject... dull and uninspired... and by the time the take on Sophia George’s Girlie Girlie rolls along ( by all accounts a shit song in the first place ), I find myself embarrassed to listen... I expect these sort of cod reggae cover excursions from UB40 but this is a new low. Love Doesn’t Frighten Me raises everything back to the standard of the first three tracks but things soon plummet again. Low points include Sunday Smile which sounds like something off THE HUNTER ( not a positive comment ) and Wipe Off My Sweat, a lame Shakira type effort. What’s in between is forgettable at best. The final track, China Shoes is a saving grace. It’s a slow burner but the guitars are chunky and it sounds very New York, which is after all the enduring identity of Blondie.

I don’t believe it’s an age thing and that they’ve somehow lost it. There’s plenty of evidence of creative life... Chris Stein and Clem Burke are huge talents and Deborah Harry still sounds amazing... maybe the problem lies in the songwriting credits, which are more scatty than a later day Ramones record, with a lot of external writers including one of the producers of the album. This is never a good idea, no matter what the credentials are. There were seemingly 35 tracks recorded for this album... What’s presented here cannot possible be the pick of the bunch. Last year Devo recorded a load of tracks and let the fans decide what to put on the album. Maybe not the path everyone should take but Blondie please take note, you are evidently capable of higher art than this lopsided schizoid mess. - BOZ

Saturday, June 25, 2011

PETE HOLIDAI - The Devil’s Guitar CD ( 625 Label )


By way of explanation. Pete Holidai is known to some as the guitarist with the cherished Radiators ( from Space ), an undersold entity spawned as Dublin’s best shot during the mud of late 70’s punk. This band drew from a wide catchment of sources so it’s no surprise that THE DEVIL'S GUITAR utilises the 1950’s as it’s pivot. Although the Formula Steamroller pace of the Rads has probably left Mr Holidai plenty of time to write and record as an outside entity, this solo album is a debut – probably long conceived and talked up before a note was ever strummed.

This is vaguely a concept recording in cinematic, broody Jimmy Dean mode, mapping out a common thread like a Ventures record and citing the likes of Martin Denny and Les Baxter as influential. The album’s signature track THE DEVIL'S GUITAR has a distinct fusion to it... the melting pot of Duane Eddy twangs and lounge percussion make it every bit the 50’s nostalgia binge it emulates but there’s something else going on here. A spinal jazzy bass and intermittent blasts of brass also evoke a rooftop chase of some patchwork denim hoodlum in a mid 70’s Malpaso production. From here things cruise into lounge mode. The first few pastel seconds of THE GIRL IN THE CAR flutter open like a Doris Day movie before settling into something sounding more like a post-Sun Records Roy Orbison cut. No mean feat and something which will always get the thumbs up here. FAMESVILLE is definitely the point at which that Martin Denny strain of exotica surfaces, with it’s sunset, lapping wave and tiki candle percussion. LUNAR GIRL is another downbeat piece of lounge pop with punctuated with spacey electronics and shimmering guitar twangs. THE LONELY ONE is the album’s crooner ( although no in the mafia cabaret sense ) and FALLEN ANGEL arrives right on time, prodding the pace with it’s snarling whispers and carrying itself as one of the albums highlights. IN A SPECIAL WAY brings a touch of Chris Isaac to the album and FIREWORKS OVER RHONDA is another classic surf instrumental with brazen guitar clangs, b-movie incidental organ and some of the album’s finest beats and random noises. An organ led JACK OF HEARTS delivers another piece of downbeat twangy pop with some great guitar on the lead out. The reprise of LUNAR GIRL as a space-tiki instrumental rolls like cinematic end credits on the album as it is formally track listed although there are 2 extra tracks - THE DEVIL'S GUITAR BERLIN MIX retreats the opener with samples of JFK’s 1963 “Ich bin ein Berliner” cold war diatribe and ERASERBED leads out on an upbeat note with a few last helpings of gratuitous tremolo.

This album is the result of crate digging - a careful and almost academic dissection of some less acknowledged flavours from rock’n’roll and electric guitar’s infancy. It’s an interesting and somewhat brave take on an era of music where the standard is to grease up and become a mid-life-crisis-abilly, an all too apparent pandemic in the last 10 years or so. Around the time of this release there was also a random track called BABY I'M DOING MY THING kicking about as a free Bandcamp download although it doesn’t seem to be there now. This is an excellent glam stomper and I’ve no idea why it wasn’t on the album as it probably would have bubbled in the melting pot a little better than imagined. - BOZ

The CD was Limited to 100. For download version go to peteholidai.bandcamp.com