It’s one thing to release a “best of” album to celebrate a mile-marker, but it’s a graduated level of impress to release a yin-yang double disc that pairs a rerecorded album of greatest hits with a studio album of new material. For that alone, Blondie’s commemoration of the group’s 40th anniversary raises a bar.
Deluxe Redux: Greatest Hits—the remake half of the package—sounds and feels like a Technicolor blast from the past. Right out of the gate with “Heart of Glass” and through 11 iconic rompers like “Call Me,” this is an extremely rocking collection of hit pop tunes that, to be honest, pleasantly surprise in how catchy and listenable they still are.
In these encore renditions, you can tell Debbie Harry is not the woman of her youth. Her voice is lower and the vibe is a bit different, but altogether it’s a cool thing. “Maria” is a perfect example that shows how time can be gracious: The low end in Harry’s voice has a heartfelt quality that sounds fantastic, and her somewhat limited vocal range is steady with a recognizable timbre that allows all kinds of other instrumental weaving, whether that’s island drumbeats, dirty sax, weird accordion grooves, or the fretboard muscle flexing of Blondie co-founder and guitarist Chris Stein, who really shines with multiple melodic solos on “One Way or Another.”
The second disc, Ghosts of Download, delivers 13 tracks, and all but one are new songs that keep an eye locked in the rearview mirror. The band also covers “Relax,” the 1984 hit by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, which was originally banned by the BBC back in the day. Throughout the album, the energy is infectious and the songs feel inspired and fresh, yet they still manage to complement the classic vibes of Deluxe Redux.
The fuzzed-out riffs on “Rave,” the jangle on “Take It Back,” and the acoustic reggae strumming on “Backroom” are just a few of the subtle ways Stein injects life into an album that’s largely dance music—he really knows how to take a song to a special place. Occasionally he scorches through the programming with a strong, searing rock solo ... because he can and it works. It’s a testament to a band with a signature sound but an evolutionary, experimental vision. This is staying power—a classy study in bringing throwback into today. Well done, Blondie and crew.