April 12, 2004 12:00 PM



“Mmm, I’ve been this way before/ Mmm, I’ll come this way again,” sings Blondie front-woman Debbie Harry on the reincarnation-themed “Rules for Living.” Indeed, her venerable punk outfit seems to have lived several lives during its 30-year career. After a 16-year recording break—during which Harry released four solo albums and pursued an acting career—they reunited to make 1999’s No Exit, and the quartet has revived itself again for this, Blondie’s eighth studio disc. While the group’s new-wave sound sometimes comes off as too old, synth-pop dance tracks like the first single “Good Boys” and “Hello Joe,” which is dedicated to the late Joey Ramone, are charmingly retro. Blondie, one of the first pop acts to incorporate rap, on 1981’s hit “Rapture,” is less successful when Harry plays emcee on “Shakedown,” a hip-hop-styled paean to the singer’s native New Jersey. A couple of jazz-influenced numbers, including the drum-heavy “Desire Brings Me Back,” also fall flat. Even so, Harry remains a cool presence, with her ever-alluring voice and quirky phrasing continuing to be the band’s most colorful qualities. At 58, this blonde is clearly still having more fun.

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