The cover of Blondie’s Panic Of Girls, the band’s ninth studio album, features the surreal hand-painted imagery of Dutch cult artist Chris Berens, whom guitarist Chris Stein sought out and commissioned to create the work. Its depiction of a kind of warped wonderland metaphorically suits Blondie at this juncture in its remarkable, 37 year-old career. The New York City-based sextet indeed occupies a world all its own, beguiling and just a little twisted, and its sound is more recognizable than ever, burnished by the decades to achieve a timeless pop sheen. On Panic Of Girls, Blondie glances backward but resolutely moves forward, remaining keenly observant of street-level pop culture and continuing to find inspiration in the roiling musical melting pot of New York City. The core trio of vocalist Deborah Harry, guitarist Stein and drummer Clem Burke have embraced younger band-mates, collaborated with up-and-coming producers, and discovered new songwriting partners while never merely chasing trends.
“We’re part of the future as well as the past,” declares Harry. “Making new music is really, really important for me and for the rest of the band. When we first got back together in 1997, one of the stipulations I had was that it not be just a review of Blondie’s greatest hits. I really felt convinced of and dedicated to the idea that we had to move ahead and do new music. I’m really happy that this CD is coming out and represents the Blondie tradition, yet it also has a statement that is part of today.”
Panic Of Girls opens brashly with Burke’s signature drum roll before the band launches into the breathlessly paced “D-Day.” The band maintains this high-energy approach, counterbalancing a break-up tale with bright power pop, on “What I Heard,” penned for the band by new keyboardist Matt Katz-Bohen and Laurel Katz-Bohen. There’s a darkness around the edges of some of the new songs, but their tone is just as often heartfelt and humorous – and even the toughest number provides plenty of sonic fun. With the anthemic electro-pop of “Mother,” Harry salutes the fabled West 14th Street nightclub of the same name that, in the late nineties, attracted the most outrageous downtown luminaries and self-made superstars to what was then an evocatively seedy strip of Manhattan.
Blondie has come a long way from CBGB’s and the Bowery, having sold more than 40 million albums globally and repeatedly reaching the top of the charts over the course of four decades with such hits as “One Way Or Another,” “Heart Of Glass,” “Rapture” and “Maria.” In 2006, Blondie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame; at the Cleveland museum, Burke notes, the band’s plaque is situated right below the Beatles. It’s been eight years since the band’s last studio effort, The Curse Of Blondie. Since then, Blondie has continued to be a powerhouse live act, attracting audiences literally around the world, becoming the most successful band to reunite from the class of ’77.