Plastic Letters (Bonus Tracks Edition) [2001 Remaster]

Plastic Letters (Bonus Tracks Edition) [2001 Remaster]

The hard-charging, defiantly fierce second album from New Wave heroes Blondie, 1978’s Plastic Letters arrived on the heels of the group’s buzz-building debut. That album, 1976’s Blondie, didn’t exactly rocket the group to fame. But it nabbed Blondie a major-label deal, earned the attention of influential Los Angeles DJ Rodney Bingenheimer, and even yielded an overseas hit with the group’s pop ballad “In the Flesh.” The group’s follow-up, Plastic Letters would be a conscious effort to capture into the punk-rock roar emanating from downtown New York City. Easily the group’s heaviest and most straightforwardly rocking album, Plastic Letters is a portrait of the group at its most ferocious. But while Plastic Letters finds Blondie striking some tough poses and playing speedier songs, the album’s most enduring singles build on the postmodern girl-group sound of the band’s debut. After hearing Randy and the Rainbows’ 1963 doo-wop classic “Denise” on a K-Tel compilation, the band members and producer Richard Gottehrer rigged up a version that mixed New Wave agitation with stomping Spector-ian grandeur. The result was “Denis,” a song that took the group’s early-1960s obsession to amazing heights (and would go on to become a monster smash in the UK and France). Meanwhile Plastic Letters’ other breakout hit, “(I’m Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear” mixes sparkling, Shangri-Las-inspired harmonies and a power-pop hook with Clem Burke’s wild, Who-like drumming. Beyond the singles, the album dabbles in power-pop (“Fan Mail,” “Youth Nabbed as Sniper”), spy-punk (“Contact in Red Square”), and even old-fashioned, roadhouse-jukebox rave-up (“Kidnapper”). It’s the last taste of Blondie as a bratty, subterranean rock band. Less than a year after the release of Plastic Letters, Blondie would return with the glossy, disco-fied commercial breakthrough, Parallel Lines—and immediately go from downtown darlings to world-conquering pop icons.

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