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Blondie spreads "Panic" to fans

Sep 5, 2011, 10:03 a.m.
Deborah Harry of the band "Blondie" points to the crowd as she performs an acoustic set at the venue CBGB in New York City October 14, 2006. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

By Sabrina Ford

NEW YORK (Reuters) - In more than 30 years since smash hit song "Heart of Glass" took Blondie from new wave upstarts to mainstream stars, frontwoman Deborah Harry has transformed herself many times, younger members have joined the band and albums have gone from vinyl to digital.

Still, the band's newest new wave is unmistakably Blondie.

On September 13, Blondie will celebrate the U.S. release of its ninth studio album, "Panic of Girls." In keeping with record industry trends, the album is being released independently on the group's own imprint and will be sold on CD and digital download exclusively on Amazon.com.

Harry, 66, whom Lady Gaga recently called "the most legendary woman in rock," said Blondie is just as much a part of the future as it is the past.

"We've got a loyal fan base that we want to keep. Instrumentally, we have our own tradition and our own style that predominates. But we're happy to have a sense of evolution. We've always been adventurous and tried to look for what moves us. It's a forward motion."

Blondie is among the most iconic bands to emerge from New York City's 1970's punk and new wave scene cultivated in downtown clubs like the legendary CBGB.

While the group achieved some early success in the U.K. and Australia, it was their third album, 1978's "Parallel Lines," with singles, "Heart of Glass" and "One Way or Another," that helped Blondie achieve chart success in the United States.

The group's 1981 song "Rapture," featuring Harry rapping, became a No.1 hit in the U.S. The song and accompanying video is credited with introducing a wider audience to hip-hop, which was just emerging from New York's streets at the time.

BLONDIE'S "PANIC" ATTACK

"Panic" is the group's third album since original members Harry, guitarist Chris Stein and drummer Clem Burke (with newer supporting band members) reunited in 1997, ending a 15-year hiatus during which Harry recorded five solo albums. It is also the group's first record since 2003's "The Curse of Blondie."

The album features 11 songs in genres ranging from reggae to Latin. Harry sings in French on "Le Bleu" and in Spanish, "Wipe Off My Sweat." Reggae-tinged "The End The End" is a love song about enduring relationships with lyrics that could speak to the creative bonds between Blondie's original members.

"Our influences come from all over the place -- the radio, New York City," Harry told Reuters. "There are many different types of music, and we like to give our take on all of it, reggae, Latin, pop. It's always just been part of our scheme."

Not surprisingly, the purveyors of alternative cool went the way of many acts in today's digital world of distressed CD sales by releasing the album themselves to avoid major label politics and reach fans directly.

Blondie had been looking to put out an independent album for a number of years due to the seismic shifts in the industry as fans went online to download songs. Selling "Panic" through Amazon.com is reflective of industry change, Harry said.

"We've always embraced technology and tried to incorporate it in what we do. Everyone has come to rely more heavily on the Internet and companies that put music out on Internet have become really relevant."

Yet, while the industry has transformed, the band's chemistry seems unchanged, which is reflected on "Panic."

"It's amazing that we really have a good understanding of each other, it's automatic," said Harry. "We actually come up with similar ideas separately all the time. When we sit down to talk it's like, 'Oh, well, I was thinking about that too.'"

This past weekend, Blondie kicked off a North American tour in Michigan. The group will make stops in Boston, Chicago and New York before wrapping up in California on October 8.

(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

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