Following the ending of Blondie's second life as a recording and touring outfit, and nearly a decade and a half after her last solo record, Debbie Harry, at the age of 62, makes a surprisingly feisty and invigorating return to form on the spunky Necessary Evil. Recorded with songwriting and production assistance from the likes of longtime collaborator Chris Stein and young production team Super Buddha, this album features echoes of early Blondie's ironic updating of classic '60s pop (the Phil Spector-like "Two Times Blue" shows where Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse got many of their ideas) mixed with contemporary Hip Hop and Electro Rock influences. Highlights include the lascivious "Dirty and Deep" and the lovely ballad "If I Had You," a worthy successor to Blondie's glorious love song "In the Flesh." At an age when many of Harry's contemporaries, such as Elvis Costello or Nick Lowe, are working in musical styles that have no connection to the modern Pop marketplace, Debbie Harry proves that it's possible to rock the mainstream at any age.
Anyone hoping for the 62-year-old Debbie Harry to sit up and act her age will be sorely disappointed by the former Blondie vixen's sixth solo album (and first in 14 years). Viscerally contemporary, Necessary Evil harnesses youthful exuberance from across the charts, and Harry and her team of producers and songwriting partners do radio-ready rock, pop, and soul-lite with à la mode savvy to spare. Big-time sing-alongs ("Two Times Blue," "You're Too Hot") rub elbows with spare, distorted guitar lines piled in arena-sized stacks ("Love with Vengeance," "Charm Redux," and the especially vivacious "Whiteout"). "The Devil's dick is hard to handle," Harry growls in "School for Scandal," encapsulating the attitude of shameless defiance coursing through this and other lean, mean, up-tempo numbers like the half-rapped, full-lipped "Dirty and Deep." Between the reversed hip-hop break bisecting "Charm Alarm," the title track's stolen riff from Rage Against the Machine's "Know Your Enemy," and Harry's bits of Internet imagery, this album won't dare let go of its of-the-moment moxie. Gumdrops like the flaccid "What Is Love" and closer "Paradise" are irrevocable but few; in all, the occasional slice of tripe strangely sweetens Harry's otherwise surprising longevity, ready to rock and salty as ever. --Jason Kirk