In 1981, Blondie seemed to have run its course, and front woman Debbie Harry was ready to go solo. Seeking a sound different from the trademark disco new wave beat of Blondie, she enlisted the team of Nile Rogers and Bernard Edwards from Chic to help her achieve a different sound. They too wanted to try something different for Harry, and opted for a funkier, harder style, one that would showcase her voice in a new kind of arrangement. Thus was borne KooKoo.
Perhaps it wasn’t a good idea to release a debut single entitled “Backfired.” The song itself is musically adventurous, as it finds Harry heading into funk territory. But in spite of its risks, it’s a risk that doesn’t pay off, as the song itself is somewhat flat. That’s true with much of the material here, which sounds oddly thin and weak. ”Inner City Spillover” has a reggae beat, but the way Harry sings makes the song feel like it’s out of synch. The ballad “Now I Know You Know” features lovely vocals, but her voice is so high up in the mix, the music behind her sounds like an afterthought, resulting in an arrangement that feels off. Oddly, the best song here, “Military Rap,” is also perhaps the most embarrassing, which shows how off the mark the whole KooKoo project was.
Look, pairing up Harry with Rogers and Edwards should have been a no-brainer formula for success. But their decision to make a funk record wasn’t a wise one, and though KooKoo was a minor hit—it sold on name brand, surely—it wasn’t a creatively successful project. (It says something when people talked more about the provocative H.R. Giger cover than the music.) You can’t fault Harry for trying something different, but innovation alone doesn’t mean that the project would be successful because of it.
Purchase Debbie Harry KooKoo: Chrysalis
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