Necessary Evil (Five Seven Music)
In its heyday, Blondie appropriated wildly varied styles of music, from girl-group pop to hip-hop and calypso. So it must be a special kind of hell, especially for a band that came out of the artistically fertile New York scene of the '70s, to have to play "Heart of Glass" for the 1,000th time on the festival circuit.
Perhaps this is one reason Deborah Harry is stretching her vocal chords and thanking her personal trainer on a new solo album. Her fifth since 1981's Koo Koo, and her first in 14 years, Necessary Evil finds the singer working with a Brooklyn-based version of the Matrix. Super Buddha shares writing credits on most of Necessary Evil, and from the sound of the disc, the duo has helped re-invigorate Harry with its hip production sensibilities. More importantly, the uniformly catchy songs play to the singer's strengths. She coos and purrs her way through lush, adult ballads like "Needless to Say", and lets loose her growling rock voice on "Whiteout". Super Buddha contributes most of the musical backing, but then the disc takes a turn, as Harry's partner-in-crime Chris Stein steps in for the New Orderish "Jen Jen" and the dreamy "Naked Eye".
Necessary Evil is overlong, and nothing on here will make anyone forget Blondie hits like "Heart of Glass", "Dreaming", "Call Me", or "Rapture", but that's an easy complaint. Harry deserves credit for making a fun pop album that doesn't sound entirely irrelevant 30 years after her band's debut. That is a feat in itself.