OTR: Blondie - No Exit

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1 aug 2008, 01:00

No Exit (translated from the French Huis Clos) is an existentialist play written by Jean-Paul Sartre, first performed in 1944. In it, three sinners are cast into Hell, in order to cohabitate for all eternity. This Hell, however, has no fire, no brimstone and no demons committing heinous acts of torture upon its occupants. The only true torment of Hell is the torment which comes from the vicious triangle of the eternal "living" arrangement - there are always two available to gang up on the third; Hell is other people.

I first read the play well over a decade ago in a high school French course. Unlike the conjugations of French verbs (which I never mastered and was hard-pressed to remember even then), this play stuck with me. Not so much the linguistic aspects, mind you, but the philosophy. Finally, French class wasn't just having me dissect a language, but exposing me to the culture from which that language sprung (I also read Le Petit Prince, but Sartre spoke to me more than Antoine de Saint Exupéry, not to minimise Exupéry). During my college years, I was able to attend a live performance of No Exit and even went so far as to make Sartre the subject of one of my reports for a university French class. Sadly, despite all those years of French classes, I can still barely speak the language.

None of this has anything to do with Blondie's No Exit, however, save for a brief Sartre quote printed in the liner notes of the disc.

I actually "won" my copy of this disc from a local radio station during the summer of 1999. "Maria" was the hot single on the radio at the time - one of the best songs which never became a smash hit. Anyway, WAIH's music director at the time had secured a job at what was then WVNC, a top 40 station broadcasting out of Canton, New York. Since it was locally owned and operated, and since I had shown a huge interest in radio, I was allowed to hang out there on occasion and actually volunteered to work there during Potsdam's Summer Festival (which they were covering).

The Potsdam Summer Festival was/is an annual event where the main street downtown was closed, allowing vendors to bring their wares outside of the stores in all sorts of crazy sales. Local radio stations would set up booths and give away prizes and there would be a main stage where locals bands would play during the course of the festival (one week, if I recall). This event also brought out every disgusting, stinky redneck in St. Lawrence County, as I recall, but on the flip side, also somehow convinced the girls from my high school that wandering around downtown Potsdam wearing next to nothing was a good idea (which was a point for or against the event, depending on the girl). But, anyway, since I was "on the inside," I got a copy of the CD.

It's not a bad album, but it does stylistically jerk the listener around. Blondie always liked to experiment with genres and they go for broke on No Exit. "Screaming Skin" is just strange, while Blondie's hip hop fetish pops up on "No Exit" (really a rap-rock fetish here, to be honest - but that's Coolio doing the rapping). Meanwhile, "Boom Boom In The Zoom Zoom Room" sounds like something out of a Vegas lounge and I suspect that the group was having a seance where they channelled The Mission UK for "Night Wind Sent," except that without Wayne Hussey it doesn't quite match up.

Aside from "Maria," the most notable song on this set is "Under The Gun (For Jeffrey Lee Pierce)" a stomping ode to the lead vocalist of The Gun Club. Incidentally, Jeffrey Lee Pierce was also the head of Blondie's fan club throughout the 1970s. He died three years prior to the making of this album.

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