Blondie – Pollinator album review
Blondie are back with their 11th album, and it’s rammed with guest singers and acclaimed songwriters. Are we still touched by their presence, dear?
The problem with Pollinator is it’s hard to know why it exists. Nothing’s wrong, naturally, with Blondie’s desire to continue making music: we’re long past it being ‘better to burn out than fade away’, and they’ve already broken up once anyway, only to find the temptation to reform too great. Furthermore, their influence – Debbie Harry’s, at least – has never receded: Lady Gaga’s made no secret of it, and she’s just turned up on Future Islands’ album, too.
There is, however, something a little undignified about a band behind so many great songs leaning so heavily on others: Harry and partner Chris Stein contribute to just three of Pollinator’s tracks, and only two exclusively.
Admittedly, the presence of heavyweight songwriters like Johnny Marr, Sia and Dev Hynes is a testament to Blondie’s ongoing allure, but too much of their 11th album sounds like an attempt to mimic former glories.
The opening bars to Hynes’ Long Time tease with echoes of Heart Of Glass, while the slap of cymbal and snap of a snare drum – familiar from Atomic – are there on Doom Or Destiny (on which Joan Jett makes an inconspicuous appearance), Fun and Too Much. These could be homages, of course, but the results are counter-productive.
There are moments, moreover, when Harry’s voice sounds too much like a growl than a purr, though that’s still no excuse for the gratuitous filtering of her vocal on Charli XCX’s dreadful Gravity, or for inflicting Auto-Tune on YouTube stars The Gregory Brothers’ whining When I Gave Up On You. Fortunately, TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek teams up with Harry and Stein for Fun, which reboots disco much as fellow New Yorkers The Rapture once did, and Marr’s pacy My Monster is successful, too, its ascending keyboard melody cutting through a storm of drums and guitar.
Harry also applies a winning snarl to Sia’s Best Day Ever, but, ironically, Pollinator’s best track is the work of band member Matt Katz-Bohen.
Suggesting they still have plenty to offer without resorting to outsiders, his classy keyboard underlines the strengths of Already Naked’s chorus, which finds Harry hitting especially seductive high notes.
Pollinator will, of course, send you gleefully back to Blondie’s back catalogue, but, as a whole, it serves mainly to remind us how much better they were when they appeared to be more self-reliant.