If there was one band that effortlessly toed the line between punk and pop, it was Blondie. The group, still fighting the good fight with their most recent album Pollinator, have been regarded as the foreword in new wave ever since their inception. Delicately manipulating the connections between the gritty realism of punk and the danceability of pop, Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, Clem Burke, and an array of other band members have contributed to Blondie being regarded as one of the most pivotal bands of all time.
A band who epitomised the meaning of cool in the seventies and eighties, the walking talking definition of ‘new wave’, it can feel odd to recognise them as a legacy act in the 21st century. Their determination to bring the freshest sounds during their original tenure made them icons, and even during their reformation and subsequent reunion output, Blondie have managed to put themselves into their very own category of acts — not to be messed with. But, if you’re still struggling with where to begin to truly devour Blondie and their marvellous array of songs, then we have just the thing as we rank the band’s albums from worst to best.
Started back in 1975, with the bustling New York scene positively clawing at the backs of Harry and Stein, the duo formed a group named after the catcalls Harry received while walking the streets of the Big Apple. With the advent of punk only a few short years away but clearly present within the work of Blondie’s CBGB counterparts, the Ramones already, Harry and Stein committed to the ethos and began writing a host of short, sharp tunes, designed to pin and prick the music world into submission.
It was a smart move. While punk rock certainly had its female heroes, using Harry as the enigmatic frontperson for the band was a stroke of genius. Not only was Harry blessed with an iconic visage, but she, more importantly, possessed an incredible vocal range as well as a stage presence that few could match. It was clear, the former waitress and Playboy bunny, was going to be a ginormous star. In fact, it was arguably the gravitational pull of Harry’s star that split the band as her star rose beyond the band.
The group broke up in 1982 only to reform before the turn of the millennium, announcing themselves as a fascinating and vital group, no matter what decade they found themselves in. Across those decades, the group have delivered eleven studio albums which are marked for their brilliance. Below, we rank them from worst to best.
Blondie albums ranked from worst to best:
11. Panic of Girls (2011)
Blondie may well be famed for their signature sound but the truth is, the group have always tried to push themselves creatively. Panic of Girls was another moment in which the band refused to be confined to their pre-determined path.
The group attempted to put a high gloss finish on their power-pop tunes and while the music at hand, typified on songs like ‘What I Heard’ and ‘D-Day’, is more or less down the line rock ‘n’ roll, the album falls comparatively flat. Unfortunately, this is one moment where the high-sheen of production blinds any chance of seeing the songs for their real worth.
10. Ghosts of Download (2014)
Another decade passes, and Blondie are once again involved in the music of the 21st century. The band’s 40th anniversary sparked a quick scramble to re-record some of their biggest hits, included on the album Blondie 4.0. But also on that record was a collection of new songs to share, titled Ghosts of Download.
While the LP isn’t quite what many would describe as a full-length record, it certainly does put the band in the sphere of the modern world. The album isn’t up to much, largely hanging itself on the previous album’s aforementioned glossiness. It does, at least, showcase Blondie’s penchant for pursuing new sounds whenever possible, this time adopting an electronic dance pulse that they’d never embraced before.
9. The Hunter (1982)
The impending implosion of Blondie was on the cards for some time. The group rarely settled on a fixed line-up and liked to chop and change members by way of introducing new sounds and new perspectives. The Hunter would be the band’s final album in their first stint and see them push themselves creatively.
After the mammoth success of Autoamerican, the penchant for new wave punk had seemingly diminished, and the band pursue a cleaner pop sound. But that didn’t mean they couldn’t mix it up too. ‘War Child’ would take on a quasi-disco bounce will ‘Island of Lost Souls’ was undeniably influenced by calypso swing, but where the album really falls is that it felt like a stop-gap. In comparison to their other albums, it’s a record without identity.
8. The Curse of Blondie (2003)
The return of Blondie was a confusing one — largely because they refused to follow the same suit as other legacy acts. If promoting such a return, bands were expected to show up, write and release an album, complete a tour and take their cheque, bouncing off into the sunset. But Blondie bucked the trend; they returned and have refused to leave since.
Their second reunion record sees the band once again apply themselves to a range of different genres. Three standout numbers from the album include ‘End to End’, ‘Undone’ and ‘Goldenrod’ which all work to provide a glimpse of the beating heart of the band.
7. Pollinator (2017)
Thankfully, Blondie have returned once more. The previous two releases have been ropey at best and find themselves on the back end of our list because of it. Pollinator, however, is a cut above those couple of missteps.
Taking strength from the group’s signature sound, you’d be forgiven for thinking this LP was cut in the smoky streets of seventies NYC. Harry is still in top form vocally as she sparks and rekindles endless relationships with a twitch of her lip. The album is still fitted with all the mod cons you’d expect but backed with some serious authority.
6. Autoamerican (1980)
The band’s fifth album is arguably their most widely bought, but that certainly doesn’t make it their best. The record also gave birth to two number one hits in ‘The Tide is High’ and ‘Rapture’ — the latter proving to be the first ‘rap’ song to do such a thing — but its legacy remains in the ideas of what could have been.
In 1980, there was no band bigger than Blondie. They had ridden the new wave and were clearly on the crest of their own stardom crashing down around them. The effortless blend of commercially sound music and the kind of attitude that enlivened a generation meant Blondie could have dominated for decades to come. Instead, they spent years in the wilderness. Autoamerican is the album that perhaps added a little too much wind into their sails.
5. No Exit (1999)
Nobody saw it coming. The pre-Millenium return of Blondie was an unexpected one. When you add to that surprise the fact they also topped the charts with arguably one of their greatest songs in ‘Maria’, and you have a turn up for the books that is totally unprecedented. The track became a worldwide smash and confirmed Blondie as heroes forevermore.
As previously mentioned, legacy acts are meant to take their money and run, but Blondie saw the widespread selling of the ‘Maria’ single as an invitation to return in a more robust role. Somehow, Blondie had been away for nearly two decades but returned as vital as ever. ‘Maria’ may have garnered the invite, but No Exit was their RSVP.
4. Plastic Letters (1978)
It is at this point that we start bringing you the creme de la creme of the band’s repertoire. Though the group have rightly found fans in all the decades they’ve been active; it was during the mid-to-late-seventies that they flashed like the brightest of sparks. With their debut in the can, their next record, Plastic Letters, saw the band build further on their new wave foundations.
Their debut album had stood the band out as fearsome rockers with an arthouse twist, on Plastic Letters they worked hard to enhance that reputation. Delicately toying with the facets of punk (‘Detroit 442’ and ‘Contact in Red Square’) and pop perfection (‘Presence Dear’ and ‘Denis’), the group relied on the Midas touch of Richard Gottehrer to give this LP its timeless appeal.
3. Blondie (1976)
Debut albums always have a habit of bringing you the perfect distillation of a band’s sound. It makes sense. After all, they’ve been likely working for years to get that first record, so it’s only fitting that it captures their intensity to a tee. Blondie’s self-titled debut did just that, seeing their kaleidoscopic run around the rock arena, through sixties girl groups and fearsome punk, finally, end in the pantheon of power pop.
When you consider their counterparts in the music at the time, Blondie were revolutionary. Not only was the band fronted by a girl — and a girl who took no shit, might we add — but sonically they were far removed from anything in the industry.
Including tracks like ‘X Offender’ and ‘Rip Her to Shreds,’ the album was brimming with promise, something that never felt vindicated on its first release, but following the re-release, the album became a mainstay of their iconography.
2. Eat to the Beat (1979)
There’s no doubt that Eat to the Beat from 1979 is Blondie’s most creatively vibrant record. The band are at their peak, bursting with confidence and unlikely to slow down. Clem Burke is a marvel behind the kit, giving extra power to the album’s bigger hits like ‘Dreaming’ and ‘Die Young Stay Pretty’. But outside of that, the album really is a joyous reflection of a band in their prime.
As well as the power-pop motifs that had seen them through so neatly thus far, the group were also keen to inhale and exhale the myriad of influences their hometown of New York City was providing.
It means on the album there are flecks of reggae, Motown, disco-pop and punk. While the best song on the album may well be ‘Union City Blue’, it’s Mike Chapman’s production that could well take the gold.
1. Parallel Lines (1978)
As soon as it was invented, it was tarnished and, by and large, finished. This was the life story of punk. As quickly as the genre hit full speed, gathered fans and created bands, it was already being buried among a host of other youth sub-cultures that had been pillaged for commercial gain. While many punk bands fought their hardest to remain ‘real’, Blondie saw the crest of a new wave and grabbed their surfboards.
A mix of punk and pop would see the fledgeling genre become a haven for a bunch of acts that had previously enjoyed the punk moniker but now wanted a few extra pounds in their pocket. However, for Blondie, the genre was simply a much better fit for their style. With Harry and her vocals upfront, Stein’s undeniable ear for a tune and Burke behind the kit, the group were always destined to make crossover hits. On Parallel Lines, they showcased them with aplomb.
‘Heart of Glass’ is arguably the band’s greatest song and coupled with ‘One Way Or Another’ spoke loudly of a band who had carved out their own path. Though the group had seen some success in Australia and the UK, this was the album that helped them crack America and become worldwide legends.
It’s the kind of album you play straight through and the kind of LP you play again and again. And again.