Ghosts and Echoes: Blondie's Ghosts of Download

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Back in the early 80s most respectable record collections had a few Blondie albums, and almost all had Parallel Lines and Eat to the Beat.  Those who knew the band well touted the first two albums, but by the time Blondie covered “The Tide is High” on Autoamerican in 1980 the band was considered to be mainstream pop and it had lost the cache of its CBGB’s heritage.  The pursuit of the pop hit and mainstream acceptance led to the failed The Hunter album and a seventeen year hiatus. They are back in 2014 with an interesting double release, one being a reworking of eleven of their early songs and the other—Ghosts of Download—sixteen new tunes. The whole is released as Blondie 4(0) Ever.

What Was

Ghosts of Download sounds a lot like the early 80s material, complete with dance-inspired synths, over-the-top voice production, including echo and distortion. It’s is certainly more pop oriented than their early releases were. Maybe that’s okay; maybe that’s what they actually are, a dance group from the early 80s.  “Take Me in the Night,” “Take it Back,” and “Rave” suggest as much.  It’s dance music, no sign of the CBGB group.

Once that is established, what’s it like? Well, it’s reggae-inflected dance pop and could have just as easily been released in 1983 as 2014. If you haven’t grown tired of echo, synthesizers, electronic  beats, over-production, and that early 80s sound and bounce, you are most certainly in luck.  If you were looking for something more introspective or mature, don’t look here.

Their cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax” says it all. And if they were to redo it, shouldn’t it have sounded new in some way? Instead they just rehash it and it sounds like a Blondie cover of “Relax,” nothing more. Luckily the whole album is not entirely like that.

So What’s Now?

For one thing Harry’s voice is still fantastic, even if the material isn’t.  Whether on purpose or by accident, perhaps the best songs on the album are the three bonus tracks "Put Some Color on You,"  "Can't Stop Wanting," and "Prism."  If there is to be a dance hit from the album, it will probably be "Put Some Color on You" and the other two bonus tracks have some real substance to them, albeit in the dance format, with “Can't Stop Wanting" coming closest to the CBGB attitude of their early releases.

Hopefully, now that this perspective piece is out of the way, Blondie can come back with the kind of album hinted at by the bonus tracks of Ghosts of Download.


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