Though even the members of Blondie would probably agree that Eat To The Beat
is a patchy affair--largely thanks to the first unpleasant harbingers of a regrettable fascination with reggae that would eventually culminate in the calamitous "Island Of Lost Souls" single--it has a couple of important selling points. These are--no, really--the greatest pop single ever recorded ("Dreaming") and another ("Union City Blue") which should figure in at least the Top Ten of anyone with functioning frontal lobes. "Dreaming" is not just the track that Blondie should be most remembered for, it is the song that should be played to any three-headed visitors in silver suits from the planet Tharg as the definitive representation of this pop music thing that we Earthlings spend so much of our time and money on. It has everything, plus tax: not one implausibly great chorus, but two; an opening couplet that rhymes "restaurant" with "debutante"; an irresistibly simple hook, carried by guitars and keyboards; and Clem Burke contributing what pretty much amounts to a frenetic drum solo that, somehow or other, seems to fit the song perfectly. "Dreaming" also lasts exactly three minutes, leading one to suspect that Blondie knew perfection of the form when they'd created it. There are some other songs on Eat To The Beat
, and some of them--especially "Union City Blue"--are really rather good. But seeing as how "Dreaming" is the opening track, it may be some time before you get around to listening to them. --Andrew Mueller
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. --Chris Jones
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