The Hang of Music: I’m On E!

Greetings from last Friday. As I type this, I am setting this to be released on Thursday. And I am very happy to be able to say that I have kep to my schedule. So far.

At any rate, “Plastic Letters” is this week’s album, and the second one released by “Blondie”. It is also today’s album. And here, is a track.



As I listen to the album, I can tell, even without looking at the tracklist, when “Denis” comes on. It’s one of those songs that has infiltrated our culture, become absolutely inavoidable. It’s everywhere; in adverts, on the soundtrack of films… mainly in adverts. And that’s because it’s actually a cover of a song by a Doo Wop band called Randy and the Rainbows – I did not know that. Wait, there’s a genre called “Doo Wop”? Why? Just why…

"No Dave, don't go! You don't know what's out there!"

It’s a shame that it’s become so ubiquitous, because as a song it has no edge. True, it was probably it’s lack of edge that allowed it to become so ingrained. At any rate, I’m glad that it’s a bit of a one off, because if all of their songs sounded like this, I probably wouldn’t listen to Blondie.

As it is, 4 tracks in, “Youth Nabbed As Sniper” already sounds different from all the songs came before it. Before that, they all seemed to be quite light and easy to listen to*, but suddenly they seem to have sped up and become a lot angrier. (That makes sense – from what I can tell, it’s about suicide.) I have to say I approve (of the tempo, not of the suicide) and the rest of the band seem to as well, as for the most part, they stay as fast for the rest of the album.

As the following track, “Contact in Red Square”, started, I was genuinely expecting a Bond Theme. Seriously, they did it on purpose. That would have been awesome. As it is, it’s a killer tune. And, unless I’m not reading enough into it, there wasn’t that much in the way of references to the Soviet Union. A missed trick, there, I think; that would have worked well.

Including the intro to “Red Square”, the music on a lot of this album sounds a lot older than it is. The previously mentioned Randy and the Rainbows and the basslines they nicked would put it at around the 1950s.

In fact, considering how the original bassist left halfway through this album, and “so-and-so” the guitarist took over, the bass is remarkably prominent. They seem to be using a lot of blues scales. Maybe it’s “because” the guitarist took over – perhaps he got tired of bassists being relegated to the back, as they so often are – except Thin Lizzy and Motorhead.

I have to say, I really like this song. I just think it sounds really… cool. I can’t think of any other word to describe it. I mean, songs about driving fast cars, putting the pedal to the metal, with DEBBIE HARRY. Just cool.

As is often the way, I have to conclude that the singles off this album are ill chosen. The best tracks are the ones that weren’t released as singles. And even if that is a matter of preference, as it always is, most of the songs on here don’t sound like the two singles they released. “Denis” and “(I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear” sound soft and pop-tastic, but the rest of them are much heavier. Well, heavy-ish; they’re not exactly AC-DC**, but you know what I mean. “Denis” and “Presence” stick out like sore thumbs in a box of hammers.

I have one final point to make. This is important. “I’m on E”, last track on Side One, has a whistling solo. No songs have whistling solos these days! This must change!


* Carefully distinguished from Easy Listening, which, despite most songs being easy to listen to, has become an actual fucking genre. Like alternative. Alternative to what, exactly? Music? We seem to have a total over-abundance of genres. Easy Listening, Alternative, World Music, Indie (Independent). None of them mean anything!

** “Ay-See-Dee-See”? Please! I’ll show you how it’s pronounced; say it with me – Acker-ducker!


Posted on August 18, 2011, in Music, The Hang of Music and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I’ve only listened to Parallel Lines and few ‘hits’ of Blonde so found your review really interesting! I might have to give this album a listen. 🙂 How does it rate compared to Parallel Lines?

    Also, ‘alternative’ to me are artists like Kate Bush…I mean what genre is she?! Whereas Indie to me is Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand to name a couple…. but I get what you mean. The words don’t have a distinct meaning, but that’s probably why we use them to group bands that don’t have a distinct, Rock, Pop, Jazz etc sound. Well, that’s how i use them 🙂

  2. I might actually prefer Parallel Lines, but that’s mainly because I really like Heart of Glass and Hanging on the Telephone. But the rest of the tracks on Parallel Lines aren’t that amazing, truth be told, whereas most of the songs on Plastic Letters are really good, just not the singles. I tend to judge albums by their non-single tracks, and the non-single tracks on Plastic Letters are way better than on Parallel Lines, of which I can only remember one or two that I liked a lot.

    I understand that genre naming is difficult, and that ultimately all genre names are arbitrary. But Indie, World Music and Alternative are particularly egregious.

    I like the word egregious…

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