As good as a great wee fan-story is – and perfect for many of the volumes of this series – nothing beats a great argument that makes you think of the album in question in a whole new light, then – of course – sends you right back to the music to love it all over again. The album here is Blondie’s Parallel Lines and in his slim volume on that album writer Kembrew McLeod acknowledges Blondie’s connection to punk and new wave and its near-anomaly status, but argues the band’s aesthetic is art and gender-politics and comes from the strip club culture of the 50s and 60s from the various New York underground moments and movements and from building their own aesthetic then out of the parts of these seemingly incongruous vestiges; rubbing shoulder with the punk and new wave of the day so as to subtly sneak in on that subculture too.
It helps that Kembrew McLeod is not only a great writer he’s covered (some of) this material previously, including studies of New York’s 1970s and the punk movements. But the action here rips along as if the documentary has already been storyboarded, as if the film rights to this – as a treatment – have already been sorted and sold.
There’s an understanding, too, of Parallel Lines within Blondie – and later Debbie Harry’s – canon, how it was a rebirth from a fine enough debut album and decent enough start – but how this is the one that really fired, that most easily and obviously defines the band now. Some 40 years on and with Blondie still a live entity it’s the songs from this album that provide many of the highlights in any performance setlist.
Parallel Lines – the book – is worth reading if you’re a devotee of Blondie or the 33 1/3 series (and of course for fans of both already) but if, somehow, you’ve never experienced this record in your lifetime and haven’t yet read any of the other entries into this set of snapshots of classic albums McLeod’s book might instantly, easily make you a fan of both.