Album Review // Blondie – Ghosts of Download

The person who says that Blondie are no longer relevant is someone who does not know their music. The band’s new album Ghosts of Download showcases a distinctive palette of influences and, as their fourth studio album since regrouping in 1998, finds them in a health so rude as to shame many current bands.

Featuring collaborations with Beth Ditto, Systema Solar, Los Rakas, the ever fascinating Miss Guy and more it’s by far their most collaboration filled record yet and in that ever Blondie style, they don’t detract from the band’s sound so much as enhance it. Most notably, the opening trio of songs grab the listener directly by the ears. Sugar on the Side is a mover featuring Systema Solar and sets the scene perfectly with the world rhythms from guests Systema like the icing on an already very infectious cake.

Come the Miss Guy featuring Rave it’s clear we’re in for an album a few steps up from the average Blondie record. With an irresistible chorus setting the performers ‘on the road to ruin one more time’ it’s clear the chemistry between the already distinctive performer Miss Guy and the band is one that works. (Listen to Deborah Harry’s 2007 solo album for more from Miss Guy.) Beth Ditto guests on A Rose By Any Other Name and it’s astounding, on reflection, these two haven’t worked together before. Where some collaboration’s have often hit just the wrong side of experimental on some occasions, (although still more than listenable, of course) these three songs prove that Blondie are still developing their sound and nature four decades after their formation.

Other highlights include the deceptively beautiful I Wanna Drag You Around, mixing Electronica with some very warm rhythms and producing a song that is very effective indeed. Even a cover of Relax, (originally by Frankie Goes To Hollywood), works surprisingly well, recast in a semi-ballad form and a disco flavoured second half that really makes you reconsider the song.

With so many ideas bubbling away over this very busy album it’s no surprise that it jumps from style to style constantly but this is not as jarring as it could be and as the thirteen tracks roll, there is little to seriously dislike. Except, perhaps, the fact this album took so long to come out. The second half of the record admittedly feels a little disjointed, but that’s nothing too major considering the strength of the material on offer. Particularly, Mile High takes the familiar dance infused Blondie sound and runs with it to great effect.

Comparing Ghosts of Download with any previous album from the band is perhaps not an advisable action. Simply because there is so much here that is different from what has gone before. Of course, there is still a certain magic to their classic seventies albums but the developments in technology and music since have been a gift to a band as talented as Blondie. Rather than play the old hits endlessly, the music here shows them to be more than just a band playing safe to pay the bills. If you find a more dazzlingly eclectic album from a band this year, I’d be surprised.

(Sebastian Gahan)

Ghosts of Download is out May 13 on download and physical formats from Five Seven Music.  

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