The Curse of Blondie (Sanctuary)

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What exactly is the curse of Blondie? Some might say it's "Heart of Glass," their glamorous disco sidestep, which slammed the door on their punk roots. Others might postulate it's Debbie Harry, whose kittenish sex appeal tended to overwhelm the band's music. But as their new studio album demonstrates, perhaps Blondie's greatest burden is their inability to recapture the pop-song perfection that first made them famous.

The bizarre, pro-New Jersey rap breakdown "Shakedown" plods with clumsy lines and generic metal riffs, while "Rules for Living" meanders along with few hooks and fluffy, inconsequential light-rock posturing. Even the new-wave-flavored zing of the otherwise excellent "Golden Rod" extends for a minute or two longer than necessary.

But Curse isn't a total nightmare: The Billboard top 10 dance hit "Good Boys" is a crystalline discotheque classic rife with snaky, Chic-like licks; "Desire Brings Me Back" skronks with refreshingly jarring free-jazz saxophone; and "Undone" shimmers with Harry's positively glowing vocals, which have aged into a smoky instrument of seduction. In the end, Curse is simply superfluous, seeing that countless other bands today write Blondie songs infinitely better than Blondie itself.

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