After the critical acclaim of their self-titled debut and Return to Magenta in 1977 and 1978, respectively, Willy DeVille and his band took another look at the sassy, street-tough rock & roll they'd dished up and took the first step toward the swinging Spanish soul the band's subsequent albums would strive for and the crooning R&B heartbreaker DeVille himself would become as a solo artist. Le Chat Bleu is angel-headed hipster rock. The Doc Pomus influence on the opening track, "This Must Be the Night," with its cascading harmonies and 1950s girl group melodies, is a doo wop fantasy for the punk age. That influence was more than that as Pomus and Willy DeVille co-wrote three songs together for this stellar effort. Far more reverent than the Ramones and nowhere near Robert Gordon's stilted revivalism, Mink DeVille could sing and play rock & roll sweetly and razor sharp, kind of like a lollipop on the edge of a dagger. The first of the DeVille/Pomus soul ballads is included here. "That World Outside," with producer Steve Douglas' lilting tenor saxophone that twists itself around each line and breezes through the chorus, is pure Pomus, with DeVille carrying a vocal he'd never attempted before. This was the beginning of something for the band, and the end of something else. Piss and vinegar were not enough to fuel the band's muse any longer -- it also took polish, sensitivity, and a deep commitment to subtlety and drama, and this ballad contains them in spades. The other two, "You Just Keep Holdin' On" and "Just to Walk That Little Girl Home," burn as brightly. Of the rockers, "Savoir Faire" and "Lipstick Traces" contain the wooly garage stomp of the earlier records and keep their switchblade honesty and punky edge. Contrary to popular belief, this album is not the sound of a band losing its innocence as much as it is the sound of a rock & roll band finding its identity.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek