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An Inspired Masterpiece,
This review is from: Autoamerican (Audio CD)
If PARALLEL LINES is Blondie's greatest collection of songs - snappy, clever and direct, in ideal compliance with their standing as the perfect pop group - their 1980 AUTOAMERICAN is their greatest album, one that is dignified and complete, perfect in its total unity and harmony. Ironically it is at a time when Blondie were most alienated as a group that they sound most like a band, a contradiction evoked in the record's beautiful cover art.
On AUTOAMERICAN Blondie, in spirit at least, step outside New York and breathe in the vast scope and beauty of America. The record's opening sequence "Europa", a somewhat intellectual concept of the automobile voiced robotically by Harry, is the statement of intent, giving way to the perfect disco bass of "Live it Up", containing one of Blondie's great lines: "you know its so passé/to sleep without you every day". "Go Through It" cruises along an open highway with tender love and gutsy charm. "Do the Dark", tinged with North African allusion, is a shadowy and mysterious invitation to "do the Sidewalk Shuffle/do the Invisible Dance" and is one of Blondie's most intoxicating songs.
Admittedly "The Tide is High" becomes increasingly easy to skip over as the album's finest moments become even more alluring; The old time dance-hall number "Here's Looking at You" - lazy, smoky and poignant, voiced through a glass of bourbon while pining for Monroe; The immortal "Rapture", cooler now than it ever was, and a significant piece of pop culture in itself, pin-pointing the exact moment when the New York elite chose hip-hop over power pop. Evoking Basquait and Warhol as effortlessly as it does huge yellow taxi cabs and brownstone buildings; space mutants and b-movies; Coca Cola and Studio 54.
In fact there is not a song on AUTOAMERICAN that does not shimmer in the searing heat of a Manhattan summer, not least Jimmy Destri's sublime "Angels on the Balcony". Lucid, warm and effervescent, it is imbued with magic and a bittersweet nostalgia and is perhaps the most beautiful song Blondie ever recorded, where Harry's touching vocal is both as cool and as sweet as vanilla ice-cream.
"Walk Like Me" is Destri's call to arms, invoking the individual in a grid-locked, press frenzied America where everyone's merely a number - "change the way you comb your hair and watch what you walk under" states Harry over Clem's stabbing drum punches, before straining angrily "why don't you walk like me?". The record closes with Harry's lovely rendition of the Lerner & Lowe classic "Follow Me", as if one needs proof that Blondie, despite their modern sensibility, belong in all times, any time. Genius.