Eat to the Beat Album Review

Chrysalis 1979 / Capitol (Re-issue) 2001

Analyzing the magnificent Eat to the Beat without resorting to hyperbolic metaphor seems impossible, for this Hi-NRG, post-punk, new-wave, power-pop masterpiece captures Blondie full-flight, gliding across turquoise twilight on gossamer wings. Many justly claim the buck stops at 78's masterstroke Parallel Lines, but my for my money, Eat to the Beat plays even cooler as the mysterious, forbidden cousin to the that picture-perfect breakthrough: Understand Eat to the Beat flirts every bit as coyly and beautifully as Parallel Lines, just more worldly and decadent, over-indulged and bored, but still alluring and seductive while sitting in the kitchen eating peanut butter. Each song compresses a unique, isolated energy and high-gloss sheen borne of pop-pros performing at the top of their game, playing with time, ricocheting buoyant bass and Morricone guitar off unhinged drum fills, keyboard skylines, and a liltingly limited schizoid voice. The sheer, miraculous exuberance of the Dylan-quoting first single "Dreaming" sets the course on better living through fantasy.  Armored car-heist "The Hardest Part ("Detroit 442" Part 2)" delivers the big money deal (Who can forget the S&M/high-art video? Hopefully the pioneering video album which features vids of each number will also be rereleased.).  The blue-collar brilliance of "Union City Blue" from the Debbie Harry movie Union City (Pat Benatar also plays a bit part!) buzzes around a delicious honeycomb of melodic transcendence, revealing the impenetrable cosmic energy of "Shayla" working in the factory. "Slow Motion" lives in dreams, stops on a dime, and walks on imported air (You ought to try it sometime.).Then celestial center pearl "Atomic" makes it right (without mussing its beautiful hair), enabling Debbie to tuck you in gently and tenderly with "Sound-A-Sleep," before some kind of 60's-garage-goth, cathartic-ode to "Victor" (Bockris no doubt) with an Egyptian cadence shakes you awake for the final life lesson via punk rock powder keg "Living in the Real World." The new packaging omits a classy picture (No shots of this most visual band should be lost.) and relegates the inner-sleeve multiple negatives to a back-drop, but  the nitpicking ends there, because many pics grace the booklet. Glam guru Mike Chapman delivers a brief essay (more a paean to Studio 54, but that's fine) on reuniting with Blondie for Eat to the Beat after the staggering success of the overshadowing Parallel Lines. The live CD bonus tracks include a New Year's Eve run through the polluted urban reggae of "Die Young Stay Pretty," dedicated to those who didn't make the new decade. Two other overseas recordings (Blondie was a global phenomenon) are the dusty Holland-Dozier-Holland dandy "Seven Rooms of Gloom" (ironically also covered much later by Benatar whom Chapman also produced in '79) and a great version of David Bowie's prescient and poignant "Heroes." Finally, Debbie rides away into the sunset on a three-legged horse, going down in an all-but-forgotten ring of charismatic tomfoolery from the drive-in dalliance the Roadie. The cleaned-up disc sounds clear and sparkly. The live stuff swings in a way cool fashion and is a nice addition, but throughout the studio LP, the band never misses a beat, while pushing a certain blond icon into the stratosphere. This is the Blondie supernova exploding and imploding like an over-exerted star in the pop firmament, disappearing into the nuclear fallout, with just the burning shards of perfect singles remaining to fall to earth.  Dying young by the hand of love, fading away and forever radiating genius.

-STONE, Cheap Trash NYC
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