Blondie – Eat to the Beat

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

I used to own upwards of 1,000 CDs. I have, in recent years, whittled that down to maybe 800 (I’m not sure). I can’t say I have a particular formula or set of principles that I apply in determining what to keep; emotion plays a large role, and enjoyment is too subjective in the first instance. This album is another one that I have a hard time justifying owning. It’s a good album but the best songs on it are already on my copy of Greatest Hits, and three songs I don’t like, leaving four songs that are at best just good (and from which I could not call up a snippet of melody or fragment of lyrics if my life depended on it). But there is something about an album that a compilation can’t really match, sometimes, even if the album itself isn’t an artist’s best work. For now, at least, I am hanging on to Eat to the Beat.

What I Think of This Album

A very good, borderline-great Blondie album, Eat to the Beat is in some ways a lesser copy of Parallel Lines. Obviously, having found a hit sound with producer Mike Chapman, they were not about to stray too far from that formula, so the similarities are not unexpected.

The big draw here is “Dreaming,” which gives you a good idea of what a cocaine-fueled octopus on drums might sound like; the guitar riff is pretty cool, too. The white boy funk of “The Hardest Part” is the second-most surprising thing about it, the true novelty being that this song is about an armored car robbery. Dense and layered, “Union City Blue” is probably the sleeper song on here; it definitely deserves to be more well-known. “Atomic” is clearly an attempt at another “Heart of Glass,” with its mix of new wave and disco. Hardly holding a candle to its inspiration, it’s still a pretty good song.

Beyond these highlights, “Shayla” is a decent ballad with a nice slide guitar part, and “Die Young Stay Pretty” is a moderately successful attempt at reggae. “Accidents Never Happen” probably should have been a bigger song:  it’s a seductive, new wave-gilded power pop number. “Living in the Real World” relies on Debbie Harry’s gutsy vocal and a strong performance by the band. Brill Building songwriting legend Ellie Greenwich (co-author of “Be My Baby,” “Leader of the Pack,” “Da Doo Ron Ron,” and “River Deep-Mountain High”) sings backup on “Dreaming” and “Atomic.”

The 2001 reissue adds some live tracks, including a good cover of Bowie’s “Heroes” and maybe a less good cover of “Ring of Fire,” and in the liner notes, Chapman again provides dirt on the toll fame and drugs were taking on the band.

The Best Thing About This Album

The drumming on “Dreaming” is fucking awesome.

Release Date

1979 (original); 2001 (reissue)

The Cover Art

A disappointing effort after the excellence of Parallel Lines. The grid screams “THIS IS A NEW WAVE BAND” and the font for the band name borders on parody. I hate when bands have only a fraction of the members on the cover, with the remainder being relegated to the back cover. That must cause arguments.

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