Matt and Ryan listen to and discuss Blondie’s Parallel Lines.[audio:http://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/archive.org/download/tft124/tft124.mp3]
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So, I actually think your discussion last week of the use of synthesizers hits on something really key about the kind of musics that first used them heavily. That is, it has the exact same roots as industrial music – Kraftwerk, sure, but also in that it’s literally post-industrial. If there is anything besides marketing and MTV that unites what was called “new wave”, it was a sense that this was technological music – as Matt said, the beginning of digital. But a lot of it was also consciously about technology and a reaction to the decline of industrial capitalism. As Simon Reynolds discussed in Rip It Up and Start Again, it’s not a coincidence that a lot of the bands that would be defining of both synthpop and post-punk came not from the NYC and London scenes that you’ve discussed so far, but from places like Sheffield or Cleveland.
I really love this album. Like all good things, my high school girlfriend really turned me on to Parallel Lines. As a drummer, I immediately took a liking to the Clem Burke’s work on this and other Blondie albums (“Dreaming” from Eat to the Beat always stood out to me for obvious reasons). Parallel Lines seemed to my 17 year-old self and example of a band performance where every member added something interesting and important to the song. “This,” I thought, “was a band that was firing on all cylinders!” It wasn’t until I read an interview with (album producer) Mike Chapman did I learn that the band itself was, before this album, a sloppy musical creation. The band we hear on “Parallel Lines” was the product of tiresome album rehearsal, producer intervention, and a modest (by today’s standards) amount studio trickery. Also, a CBGB band like Blondie playing a disco song like “Heart of Glass” really took some guts and conviction since it torched any and all connections with the punk scene
I never realized how revolutionary lyrics like “I would give you my finest hour, the one I spent watching you shower” (just imagine Debbie Harry creeping on Chris Stein in the shower) were because I assumed that women had been writing lyrics like this for years. My historical perspective now better adjusted, I see how important Debbie Harry was to rock in general and my ex-girlfriend in particular.