Sept. 20--Blondie never has been an oldies act.
Sure, they perform the hits from their late '70s-early '80s heyday -- "Heart of Glass," "Rapture," "Call Me," "The Tide is High" -- but that wasn't the mission when the band re-formed after a 15-year hiatus in 1997.
Guitarist and co-founder Chris Stein said that's not about to change now as the members of Blondie -- which breaks from its "No Principals" tour with X for its own show Tuesday at the Plaza Theatre -- prepare to release an adventurous new album next year.
"Ghosts of Download," the band's 10th album, will be a 16-song collection that includes touches of electronic, hip-hop and Latin music and features guest shots from artists such as Beth Ditto, Colombia's Systema Solar and U.S.-based Panamanian group Los Rokas.
"I really like what's going on in modern pop music, which is alternative and dance music," Stein, 61, explained by phone recently. "Everything always is (dance music) to a certain extent, but now everything's got the dance floor groove. I really like what's going on."
In fact, he and his actress-dancer wife, Barbara Sicuranza, listen to a lot of current pop music in their Jeep, one of his preferred methods for absorbing new sounds. Among their more recent favorites: Gotye's 2012 smash "Someone That I Used to Know," Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks"
and Daft Punk's disco party summer anthem "Get Lucky." Stein didn't like the Chic-inspired song when he first heard it, but it grew on him.
"I thought it was Chic with a bad singer, but then this thing just (expletive) kills me," he deadpanned, referring to the Pharrell Williams-sung track.
That sensibility fed into the new album, which features the single "A Rose By Any Name."
"The record is all
computer-based," Stein said. "I spent a really long time working on the damn thing, and a lot of time on the one before (2011's 'The Panic of Girls'), but as soon as I finished that I started working on this new one."
He wrote several songs with producer Jeff Saltzman, calling "Ghosts" an "ambitious" and "collaborative" record, informed by modern pop, alt-rock, EDM and various alternative Latin musics.
"I've been listening to modern Latin music. Not salsa stuff, but reggaeton and subgenres. ... It's such fresh stuff," Stein said, noting dryly that his Spanish "is lousy."
The album originally was set for a November release, but has been pushed back
to January to avoid getting buried by bigger, blockbuster albums planned for the Christmas release rush. There was a time, long ago, when a new Blondie album might have been a part of that. Now?
"God knows, we don't have a big label," Stein said.
Blondie and its platinum blond frontwoman, Debbie Harry, were at the forefront of New York's new wave, punk and experimental art scenes in the 1970s, the same scene that produced the Ramones, Talking Heads and other seminal acts. The band broke big with third album "Parallel Lines" in 1978, its discofied hit "Heart of Glass" and driving "One Way or Another," recently covered by the British boy band One Direction.
Blondie, which has sold more than 40 million albums, released six albums during its first run, which ended with its breakup in 1982. By then, it had scored huge hits with "Call Me," "Rapture," "The Tide Is High" and "Atomic" and blazed trails into rap, disco and reggae. But internal dissension, including the deterioration of Stein's relationship with Harry, led to the split.
When Stein, Harry and drummer Clem Burke agreed to reunite in 1997, it was as friends and with the intention of playing their hits but also making new music.
"Making new music is really, really important for me and for the rest of the band," Harry, 68, says on the band's website. "When we first got back together in 1997, one of the stipulations I had was that it not be just a review of Blondie's greatest hits. I really felt convinced of and dedicated to the idea that we had to move ahead to do new music."
The band, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006, has released three studio albums since regrouping and had a hit in 2003 with "Maria," but the landscape has changed a whole lot since then. The expectation of a hit isn't very high these days.
"It's all about songs, now, moreso probably, than ever before," Stein said. "We're in the attention-deficit generation. Everybody has this fastness. If it doesn't turn over and punch you in the face in two seconds of hearing it, it's not good. The biggest music retailer in the world is YouTube, no two ways about it."
But Stein said the group -- which includes bassist Leigh Foxx, keyboardist Matt Katz-Bohen and guitarist Tommy Kessler -- is inspired by the new music it has been making and is sprinkling up to six new songs into its shows. The guitarist said the new songs seem to be going over well with fans, which he divides into "soundtrack of our lives" nostalgia types and "the people in the now."
"It seems to integrate well," he said of the new material. "People seem to put up with it."
Doug Pullen may be reached at 546-6397. Read Pullen My Blog at elpasotimes.com/blogs.
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Where: Plaza Theatre.
How much: $33.50, $38.50, $52.50 and $73.50 at the box office and through Ticketmaster outlets, ticketmaster.com and 800-745-3000.
Information: 231-1100, elpasolive.com.
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