Debbie Harry
Koo Koo
(Razor & Tie 793018218429)

Koo Koo is about as bad an album as could have been made by Debbie Harry and the production team of Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers of Chic, which is not to say it's the worst album ever made, but that it's not very enjoyable given what it ought to have been.

Debbie Harry is such a great performer and has such a great voice, it's a shame so much of her recorded legacy is pure horseshit.

The album, recorded during the long Blondie hiatus of the early 80s between Autoamerican and The Hunter), was her first solo effort, and while I'm sure it has its fans, I'd be willing to bet that most of them were New York clubgoers at the time (1981 to be exact). Not me, although I do like to think about those clubs where you could go to sit in a bathtub full of excrement and have people piss on you.

Which is sort of the feeling I get when listening to this album. Most of it is tired new-wave disco with the same New York attitude that makes a lot of the early B52's and Talking Heads albums so off-putting. None of the songs could be called great, although there are pleasing moments in "The Jam Was Moving" and "Backfired" (the two singles) – the former is pretty good, could-have-been-Blondie, with the same groove that Cameo would do (better) on "Word Up."

"Backfired" is a "Rapture" rewrite that doesn't really succeed, but doesn't exactly "backfire" either. "Jump Jump" sounds like a Tom Tom Club album track (not a compliment), "Chrome" sounds like a Blondie album track (just as much of a non-compliment).

The production is good, and the musicians are better than Blondie, but the songs overall just have no solid hooks, and Debbie's voice is just left there twisting in the wind. Much of it sounds fine, but almost none of it is memorable, making this the ideal sort of album to buy if you happen to be time-traveling and land in 1981 the day the album comes out.

You'll have a few days of enjoyment from it in that situation; otherwise this is yet another disappointing Debbie Harry project. Few artists have albums that should be so excellent yet are so mediocre. Her persona is so odd, with all that "eating Subarus" type of humor (here it's "get eaten by a big fat shark"), yet the voice is so appealing and she's so fresh, no matter what she's singing.

It's too bad she happened into the music industry when she did, when major labels were much more about how much cocaine everyone could eat rather than the music. (?)

There's the expected new-wave reggae ("Inner City Spillover," probably the weakest track here), a meandering bit of torchy new-wave blues ("Now I Know You Know," not a bad song but I wouldn't be able to hum it for you), and things get stupid with "Under Arrest" (very, very watered down take on the most annoying side of Blondie) and "Military Rap" (nothing good to say about that one).

Altogether the album sucks, but not always in the worst way. Most of it is listenable, and if you really like Debbie Harry, it's not entirely a waste of time.

The Razor & Tie reissue adds a dance version of "Backfired," about which I can only say, if that excites you, then this album is for you. For the rest of us, this will receive approximately one and a half listens before it gets put up on the shelf indefinitely, or into the sell-back pile.

If you happen to pick this up in a CD shop and get that obscure temptation that drives a person to get reissues of albums like Dr. Byrds and Mr. Hyde, be advised, Koo Koo is much better left in theory, and that money is much better spent on falafel. (?) I better stop before every paragraph starts ending with (?).

Review by Cuddly Dog