Blondie (photo by Alexander Thompson, PR)
The band Blondie is like an old friend who has drifted in, out, and back into our lives over time. They have now returned with a new album that is sure to stir up some very fond memories and make some new ones.
Pollinator is Blondie's eleventh studio album from the punk and New Wave innovators who first came together in 1974. Its founding members Debbie Harry, on vocals, and guitarist Chris Stein, plus longtime drummer Clem Burke, form the core nucleus of Blondie today, with the addition of bassist Leigh Foxx, keyboardist Matt Katz-Bohen and guitarist Tommy Kessler.
For Pollinator, the band tapped into the talents of some of today’s top musicians, asking them to provide finished songs or recruiting them to become writing partners. The goal was to inject contemporary influences into Blondie’s trademark sound. The band also decided to make this latest effort more of an organic, band-oriented album, as opposed 2014’s Ghosts Of Download which relied on computers and music programs which included elements of electronica, hip hop, and EDM. (Ghosts Of Download was coupled with Greatest Hits Deluxe Redux, a collection of mostly rerecorded versions of many of Blondie’s biggest hits.)
With John Congleton producing, Pollinator immediately revives memories of vintage Blondie of the late '70s and early '80s. “Doom Or Destiny,” written by Stein and Harry, features Joan Jett, who joins Harry in a blazing duet, their voices perfected melding together. That is followed by the danceable “Long Time,” co-written by Harry and Dev Hynes, who records as Blood Orange. Next up the pounding keyboard and guitar driven rocker “Already Naked,” penned by Katz-Bohen and Lucian Piane, aka RevoLucian. Then comes the disco-infused “Fun,” written by a collective featuring TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek and Swedish pop songwriter Erik Hassle. These four songs create a mood that harks back to Blondie’s Parallel Lines or Eat to the Beat heyday.
While these songs may conjure up recollections of “Heart Of Glass” and “Dreaming,” they avoid being strictly nostalgia trips. “Too Much,” co-written by Katz-Bohen, has the danceable hooks that we've come to expect from Blondie. “Gravity,” written by Charli XCX (Charlotte Aitchison), is fueled by heavy synths and Harry’s distorted vocals. There are two curious collaborations: “When I Gave Up On You,” a stripped-down pop song that eschews synths and heavy guitars in favor of a contribution from the Gregory Brothers and “Love Level,” written by Harry and Stein, and featuring comedian, actor and writer John Roberts on spoken vocals.
Other contributors to Pollinator include Johnny Marr, who wrote “My Monster;” Sia (Furler) and the Strokes’ Nick Valensi, who collaborate on “Best Day Ever;” and An Unkindness (Adam Johnston) who contributes the dramatic epic “Fragments.” Bonus tracks on the CD release will also include “Tonight,” co-written by Aitchison and featuring guest vocalist Laurie Anderson.
Pollinator demonstrates numerous truths: the band has a knack for being fine curators of contemporary songwriters, there is still plenty of music remaining in Blondie, and they remain vital and viable forty years after their debut album.