Timeless pop that still sounds box fresh today.
Chris Jones 2008-07-11
By 1979 Debbie Harry, Chris Stein and co. had realised their true potential. Forsaking pure rock for more diverse palette, Blondie's plan of attack now involved willfully grabbing at any passing style (as long as it could be termed 'pop') and making it their own. In this Eat To The Beat emulated and expanded on the platinum-selling Parallel Lines' formula.
Behind all this was, again, the genius (and superhuman levels of attention to detail, spending hours listening to playbacks at eardrum bursting volume) of bubblegum producer, Mike Chapman. He may have recognised in Blondie the ability to be moulded like the Sweet, Mud and all his other RAK creations at the beginning of the 70s, yet the band was equally responsible for this chart assault - writing the material that fitted Chapman's vision. One look at the credits shows exactly how democratic a place Blondie was to be as a band member. Everyone gets a mention at some point.
Maybe this accounts for the stylistic ragbag that emerges. Eat To The Beat still bears the traces of the art punk roots that had given birth to them back in their CBGB's days in New York (on the title track, the manic Accidents Never Happen and Living In The Real World); but at times the album reads like a veritable history of chart styles: Here was their first proper foray into reggae with Die Young Stay Pretty, the Duane Eddy-at-the-disco grandeur of Atomic, the skittering, Spectorish pure pop of Dreaming and Union City Blue and the Motown stomp of Slow Motion. Sound-A-Sleep goes even further back into the kind of 50s dream pop that might feature in a David Lynch film.
Americans, still hamstrung by the double-edged values of the late 60s, were always suspicious that a band first marketed as 'new wave' could be so mercenary and saw it as ersatz 'selling out', giving the album a lukewarm reception. Meanwhile in Europe their ability to soundtrack every great disco, wedding and barmitzvah was rightly valued. In the end, pop is pop and Blondie, at this point, were making the timeless variety that still sounds box fresh today.