Blondie – Parallel Lines (1978)
After the first listen, I had a nifty narrative worked out for my review of Parallel Lines.
It was to be a relatively neutral review, comparing the album to the Grade 9 math topic of, you guessed it, Parallel Lines.
About how the album & the curriculum expectations were both accessible enough, easy to process & remember, but given the choice, many would likely prefer to spend their time elsewhere.
Much to my chagrin, the review had to be abandoned. Much to my listening delight however, it was because the comparison was no longer relevant; after repeated listens, it became clear that this album was much more entertaining than my Parallel Lines math lessons!
The tipping point may have been when my wife & I went to see Blue Rodeo. Before the show, we had dinner at Dianne’s Fish Bar. A surprise highlight of the meal was the evening’s soundtrack. When we were first seated, I heard Hanging on the Telephone. I thought, Blondie, nice! It was promptly followed by One Way or Another. Then Picture This. At which point I naturally complimented the server on the music selection. She informed me that Dianne’s plays albums in their entirety, on vinyl no less. Talk about knowing your audience!
So as Wayne Campbell once said, “contract or no, I will not bow to any commercial sponsor.” But when the food is great, the girls are cute (at least my dining companion was/is), and complete albums are played on vinyl, that’s a local business worth endorsing!
When a ‘pop’ album gets better with repetition, that’s also an encouraging sign as that’s rarely the case with the genre.
The music has aged well and technological advancements have solved Debbie Harry’s plea in Hanging on the Telephone. Recall that in 1978, telephones were typically fixed to the wall. Touchtone keypads existed (rotary phones still had their place) but this was a pre-speakerphone, pre-cordless, pre-mobile time. If you were on the phone, you were stuck in one location, a curly cord connecting your telephone receiver to the wall unit. So being left ‘Hanging on the Telephone’ was a relatable frustration. Now with the advancements mentioned above (plus as Donald Glover observed, it’s antiquated to use a phone as a phone), problem solved! A solid opener.
“Picture this – my telephone number
One and one is what I’m telling you
Get a pocket computer
Try to do what you used to do yeah”
In 1978, the notion of a pocket-sized computer was ludicrous. 36 years later, it’s the norm with smartphones, these ladies saw the future!
The guitar tones are terrific throughout, notably on Fade Away and Radiate. When the lead guitar enters, the sound is reminiscent of the ballads on Chinese Democracy. For me, that’s a positive association. I hadn’t realized it was Robert Fripp (of King Crimson, among many other projects) playing on the track.
I’m still not crazy about Heart of Glass but to borrow an adjective from the tune (and more recently from the addictive game Candy Crush), the bulk of Parallel Lines is “divine.”