2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Their (inspired) third musical triumph in a row,
This review is from: Autoamerican (Audio CD)
Little Blondie had recorded on their first four albums could have prepared anyone for the experimental approach of 1980's `AutoAmerican'. Again working with Australian production maestro, Mike Chapman (Suzi Quatro, The Knack, `Parallel Lines', `Eat to the Beat'), the band went in directions that were extremely unusual for that era.
There are echoes of their past on this record in its dabbles in disco rhythms, reggae and very occasional rock. But as a whole, it abandons Blondie's earlier 60s mod girl group new wave affectations. `AutoAmerican' feels incredibly complex, concept-like, literate and ever so slightly pretentious - even though, when you break it down into individual songs, it actually isn't.
Science-fiction and symphonic film scores are behind guitarist Chris Stein's opening `Europa', which ends with a spoken verse from Deborah Harry about man's over-dependence on cars, which has led to their abandonment. The car motif is then very loosely picked up in lyrics on a few occasions throughout the album. Combined with the title and cover design credits, it is just enough to make it feel substantial. `Europa' is an arresting beginning.
There are lot of odd influences in other places, a number of them recalling eras like the 30s and 40s (`Live It Up', `Here's Looking at You' and Harry's extraordinary, soaring, self-penned theatrical jazz torch song, `Faces'), reggae (the cover of `The Tide Is High - to me, a slight low point), early hip hop combined with disco (the ethereal `Rapture') and even a cover from Broadway's `Camelot' (`Follow Me') to close proceedings, complete with waves breaking onto a shore. There is also some inspired, new-wavish rock (`Go Through It', `T-Birds', `Walk Like Me'), topped off with a `Rawhide'-style twang.
Somehow, though, all these disparate styles are bound together to deliver a record that sounds extremely cohesive and oddly, darkly urbane. There is a dreamlike quality to it at times. The musicianship is sublime, incorporating percussion and brass, and Harry's voice has rarely sounded better on record, taking her on all sorts of vocal journeys from lilting angelic high sequences to smokey jazz to rap and guttural rock.
`AutoAmerican' is nothing if not completely unique. Though not immediately accessible, it becomes just as infectious as previous efforts after a few spins and marked Blondie's third major creative high point in a row.
The 2001 remaster, unlike the others in the catalogue, actually contains worthy bonus tracks. The full 8-minute version of `Call Me' from the film `American Gigolo', the extended 1980 10-minute remix of `Rapture' and the b-side to `Rapture' - the interesting but inferior automobile-themed `Suzy and Jeffrey' - are all relevant and far more than mere marketing additions.