Release Date: 02.23.99
Record label: BMG / Beyond
No Exit, But Then Again - Who Would Want One?
by: michael r. smith
Blondie's 1999 release, No Exit has to be the most anticipated comeback album in recent history. It's only been 15 years after all! The good news is that this one proves it definitely has been worth the wait.
The band has garnered considerable press and even launched a tour this year to promote the album, but unfortunately nostalgia bands have not fared all that well in terms of public response. Sales of No Exit have been less than glorious, and Blondie's return to the limelight at the recent American Music Awards turned into a rap-free-for-all mess of noise. After embarrassments such as this, Blondie's future looks uncertain, but their saving grace may be the one overlooked gem they produced this year - the No Exit album itself. If only the music could have received the attention that lead singer Debbie Harry's aged appearance did.
This review might be considered a out of date by now, since the album has been out for six months, but I have yet to see No Exit get the recognition it deserves. Former Blondie fans who may have been let down by the lackluster The Hunter album of 1982 will be wishing this album could magically take its place. Still, one shouldn't be apprehensive about buying No Exit in the least, as the band obviously has doubled its efforts in producing the best material of its career.
The opening song, "Screaming Skin" was the one song I felt was strangely placed; not one of my favorites on the album, I actually found myself wishing "Orchid Club" could come and take its place! But, like the next song advises: "Forgive and Forget"...it is with this particular track that my faith in Blondie was fully restored. Debbie is in fine voice here and throughout the rest of the album. It is no wonder she was #12 on VH1's list of 100 Greatest Female Vocalists of All Time.
The album gets even better with the next two tracks, "Maria" and the title track "No Exit". Appropriately released as singles, it was nice to hear them getting at least some airplay on metro radio stations. The latter actually was an improvement over the rapper-infested version seen and heard on TV. Poor Debbie couldn't get a word in edgewise in that performance. I know it was meant to be in tribute to the first (white female) rap record, "Rapture," perhaps the most remembered Blondie hit...but couldn't we have limited the number of rappers on stage to one? That's what makes the album version with Coolio all the more effective.
Sorry, this isn't an awards show review (oh, don't get me started)...Anyway, the next few tracks are also great. "Nothing is Real But the Girl" is supposed to be the new single - hello people, why isn't it being played on the radio?! The next song, "Boom Boom in the Zoom Zoom Room"...I can't even type that without laughing...the song has to be a reject from Debbie's Jazz Passenger sessions. I knew they'd try to slip some jazzy number in there somewhere. Next!
"Night Wind Sent" is pretty, though sounds too much like "Double Take"....but aahh, "Under the Gun" is BLONDIE thru and thru. The beat, the tambourine and melody...perfect. Little bit of Elvis Costello-type sound in there too for good measure. The remake of their song, "Out in the Streets" is much improved over the original. The 60's girl-group sound is a nice departure from the traditional Blondie sound and is worth further investigating for their possible future(?) releases.
"Happy Dog" is a non-sensical throwaway, B-side tune that far too many albums nowadays are full of. Thankfully, "No Exit" is not one of them (though it does have its share and is why I only gave it 3 out of 5). "The Dream's Lost on Me", like "Boom Boom" also made me chuckle...but this time, in a good way. I was just surprised to find Blondie trying their hand at country. Hell, if Shania Twain can do it, why can't Debbie?! It is refreshing to hear Blondie not taking themselves too seriously. They are also not afraid to try out different genres...Mariah Carey, are you listening?
Yes, I had to go there too...Okay, back to the album. "Divine" and "Dig Up the Conjo" are fine closers of the album, listenable, albeit nothing earth-shattering. But wait, it's not over yet, as there are three unlisted live bonus tracks. ("Dreaming", "Call Me" and yup, you guessed it..."Rapture").
Giving us an album over 70 minutes in length shows how dedicated and grateful Debbie and the boys are to their fans. After all these years, they never really have left our consciousness...hence the title No Exit. Debbie has been solo for more than a decade and Chris Stein, though divorced from Debbie, was always there to be her producer if she needed one. And 80's compilations simply wouldn't be complete without a Blondie song included. My personal favorite is "One Way or Another". Hey, remember K-Tel's Rock 80 album?!
Jeez...why don't I just stop while I'm ahead? (Better not say that either, it might take me 15 years to write another review). Feb-1999