If new wave was about reconfiguring and recontextualizing simple pop/rock forms of the '50s and '60s in new, ironic, and aggressive ways, then Blondie, which took the girl group style of the early and mid-'60s and added a '70s archness, fit right in. True punksters may have deplored the group early on (they never had the hip cachet of Talking Heads or even the Ramones), but Blondie's secret weapon, which was deployed increasingly over their career, was a canny pop straddle -- they sent the music up and celebrated it at the same time. So, for instance, songs like "X Offender" (their first single) and "In the Flesh" (their first hit, in Australia) had the tough-girl-with-a-tender-heart tone of the Shangri-Las (the disc was produced by Richard Gottehrer, who had handled the Angels ["My Boyfriend's Back"] among others, and Brill Building songwriter Ellie Greenwich even sang backup on "In the Flesh"), while going one step too far into hard-edged decadence -- that is, if you chose to see that. (The tag line of "Look Good in Blue," for example, went, "I could give you some head and shoulders to lie on.") The whole point was that you could take Blondie either way, and lead singer Deborah Harry's vocals, which combined rock fervor with a kiss-off quality, reinforced that, as did the band's energetic, trashy sound. This album, released on independent label Private Sound, was not a major hit, but it provided a template for the future.
by William Ruhlmann