Saturday, 3 January 2009

1980 Blondie: Atomic

Taken on one level, 'Atomic' isn't really a song at all. The 'three blind mice' thump of the prologue slips into a stripped down four note flamenco guitar riff that punctuates a relentless yet standard hi-hat let disco beat running straight and true and hard as a train rail. Lyrically, it's a scrapbook of twelve pick and mix words repeated over and over in various combinations in Debbie Harry's unmistakable New Jersey drawl that's careful to never punch above it's weight and stays well away from the high notes.
Yet the genius of 'Atomic' is that it transcends the sum of these inconsequential parts to build into a juggernaught, a swirling hurricane of sound that has Harry at it's eye bellowing 'Your hair is beautiful' and making it sound like the best compliment you ever got in your life. The sleeve may have had her preening in front of a mushroom cloud, but there's no doubt that the only bombs going off here are between her legs - sensuality and war, sex and death; how could it fail? It can't, and it doesn't - 'Atomic' is the sound of an unstoppable band at their peak. The only shame is that they would never be this interesting again.

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