Plastic Letters by Blondie

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Plastic Letters by Blondie
Plastic Letters by Blondie

Album Released: 1977

Plastic Letters ::: Artwork

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1.Fan Mail2:35
3.Bermuda Triangle Blues (Flight 45)2:45
4.Youth Nabbed As Sniper2:56
5.Contact In Red Square1:56
6.(I'm Always Touched) By Your Presence Dear2:40
7.I'm On E2:12
8.I Didn't Have The Nerve To Say No2:50
9.Love At The Pier2:24
10.No Imagination2:54
12.Detroit 4422:24
13.Cautious Lip4:21


As is the case with many second albums by young, inexperienced bands, Blondie sound more self-assured than on their debut, but with somewhat less inspired songwriting.

However, that's only 'somewhat'. Though the band is a harder-rocking, tighter, and slicker outfit by this point, there's less variety in style and sound, making the album grow a bit tiresome towards the end, after hearing punchy raveup after punchy raveup with little letup.

Yes, the most instantly catchy song happens to be a cover of a 50's oldie "Denis", but the swirling opener "Fan Mail" may be even better, with terrific lyrics sharply detailing the type of obsessive stalker celebrities tend to attract.

As usual, Blondie adhere to democratic principles with Destri / Harry / Stein more or less splitting the songwriting evenly, and collaborating when they need to. Departed bassist Gary Valentine leaves them a second single, "I'm Always Touched by Your Presence, Dear".

The three ballads are gloomy and quirky - Harry's "Love at the Pier" (rhymes with 'sharing a beer') is trashy fun; "Contact in Red Square" shows the band's campy side with a terrific spy-vs-spy sendup. If you don't get up and moving to at least a few of these tunes, you're clinically dead.

The reissue adds a couple of bonus tracks: an alternate version of "Denis" (so what), and another gloomy quirky ballad called "Poet's Problem", which probably wasn't released at the time due to its blatant reference to snorting cocaine (as Harry world-wearily intones I think I'll do a line and then again).

Their second-best album, it refines the debut and sets the stage for world conquest ...

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by Reviewer: Creative Noise (blogging at Creative Noise)

Plastic Letters sees Blondie continue with the clever pop of their debut album, and at the same time broaden their repertoire of tongue-in-cheek pop tributes to odder topics, still clothed in 60's pop though.

The album's best songs are the giddy mock-pop of "Fan Mail" (equivalent to the debut's "X Offender"), and a contemporary cover of "Denise" (retitled "Denis"), which was the band's first big hit. Beyond those two opening tracks, things get dicey.

As none of the musicians were instrumental leaders, the band was still built around Harry, who could coo, and espouse naivety or weariness depending on the context. So while Plastic Letters is tougher-sounding thanks to more guitar and less keyboards, the band mix in new 'old' sounds with varying success, and not all their 60's pop interpretations have much substance ...

"Denis" is bubbly, but a goofy attitude alone does not guarantee success, as reflected on "I'm on E" and "Love at the Pier". The lyrics have interesting characteristics - cinematic fantasy on the dragging "Bermuda Triangle Blues (Flight 45)" and "Contact in Red Square", and playful cynicism on "No Imagination" - but their explorations of R&B on "Kidnapper", and a more 'dangerous' mood with album closers "Detroit 442" and "Cautious Lip" don't click, while Stein's fine power/pop "Youth Nabbed as Sniper" turns Blondie into a mockery as far as their 'menace' potential goes.

So the songwriting is mixed at best, with Destri consistently beating some of Stein's dogs like "Cautious Lip". And the album hits dead spots a bit too frequently, even though they're one of the few mainstream bands who could make a song about contact with the dead sound delightful, as on "(I'm Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear".

Debbie Harry may've been effective as the band's eye-magnet, but on Plastic Letters Blondie's music struggles to avoid turning into gimcrack (definition: 'showy, but cheap or badly made' - Editor).

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by Reviewer: Obscurity (blogging at Obscurity!)

Plastic Letters was such a big jump in terms of Blondie's aristic development that it blows their debut album out of the water. As far as I'm concerned, just by itself the album would still cement Blondie's reputation as one of the finest rock'n'roll bands, even if Parallel Lines had never existed.

Indeed, Blondie had matured a great deal compared to their debut album released just a year before. For while Blondie was generally a well-written album, and a genuine blast to play, it was sorta juvenile, sorta sloppy, sorta insignificant. But Plastic Letters in comparison is just ***AWESOME***, the most notable advances being in the production and arrangements.

Notable highlights are the fade out to "Fan Mail", the electric organ explosions of "Bermuda Triangle Blues", the intoxicated electric guitar duet in "Presence, Dear", along with dozens more instances that I would love to point out, for the diversity in this album is absolutely staggering, and contributes hugely to the enjoyment of listening to it ...

There's "Denis", a throwback to 50's love ballads; "Contact in Red Square" has a Russian connection; "I'm on E" is surf/rock; "No Imagination" has a classical vibe; and "Detroit 442" is nearly Heavy Metal! ... no two songs sound alike, not even slightly. And every style results in an entertaining song, so that - apart from maybe "Cautious Lip" at the end - there's not a dull moment anywhere on the album.

In spite of all that though, Plastic Letters isn't a perfect album, for while the songwriting is universally fantastic, there is a sort of melodic barrier that Blondie needed to get through to make truly durable hits. For while the ideas are quirky and fun, the melodies aren't 100 percent. And that's the reason Plastic Letters doesn't quite measure up to classics like Rubber Soul.

Still, the album is definitely worth hearing - it's smart, fun, and worthy of many many listens.

[Footnote: Don Ignacio's Blog supplements this Review with a bonus track-by-track commentary]

Rated: album ratingalbum ratingalbum ratingalbum ratingalbum ratingalbum ratingalbum rating
by Reviewer: Don Ignacio (blogging at Don Ignacio's Album Reviews)