Blondie - Pollinator

by James Gerard Rating:6 Release Date:2017-05-05

Ever since the pioneering punk/pop band Blondie’s reformation (and subsequent release of 1999’s No Exit) nearly 20 years ago, the group has made a handful of noble attempts to both embrace the current sonic landscape as well as recapture the cutting edge feel of their seminal early 80’s work, the results of which have been mixed at best.  2011’s Panic Of Girls, with it’s self-serving and blatantly overreaching sonic gloss, was a notable low point. 

It’s not like the songs haven’t been there, because each of Blondie 2.0’s albums has had a handful of really good tunes, it’s just that the band has seemed utterly confused at times as to what the best way to dress them is.  And so, with an understandable sense of trepidation duly noted, and despite a guest-list so long that it just screams disaster (Sia, Charli XCX, Joan Jett, etc...yikes), longtime fans will be relieved to hear that Debbie Harry and Co.’s forthcoming release Pollinator is a somewhat welcome return to form for this legendary band. 

The wicked drum fill that kicks off “Doom or Destiny” is a good sign as the upbeat song features a healthy dose of downstroke riffing and retro synth-lines.  For her part, Harry’s vocals are somewhat buried in beneath a blanket of reverb here, but somehow it works.  “Long Time” continues this formula while the record’s third track “Already Naked” boasts one of the band’s most memorable choruses in recent memory. 

There are still some ill-advised moments here, as tracks like the dance-heavy “Fun” and the absolutely forgettable “Gravity” reek of a chart-seeking identity crisis, but at least there’s some semblance of a real band playing real instruments (Guitarist Chris Stein and Drummer Clem Burke) at the core of most of these songs.  Avoiding some of the ‘everything and the kitchen sink’ production choices from recent outings, Pollinator has some lean and mean moments that will remind listeners of just what a tight band this actually is.  The album closes with the quasi-epic “Fragments”, a glorious classic-rock workout that succeeds in effectively bookending the album with its two best tracks.

The real question I had going into Pollinator, (Blondie’s 11th official album overall) was whether or not this was going to add to the band’s already impressive back-catalog, or if this was merely more guest-star-hero-worship masquerading as a legacy celebration.  And the honest answer is that it’s a bit of column A and bit of column B.  That being said, with Blondie 2.0’s output nearing the total of the band’s seminal heyday, it’s hard not to give them points for continuing to push themselves artistically when they could just as easily tour the nostalgia circuit every summer like so many of their contemporaries.

For the uninitiated, there are far better places to start.  In fact, if you have never heard of Blondie before you should absolutely start with your Sunday paper, that comic strip is freaking hilarious! - And then, of course, with the classic album Parallel Lines.  But for everyone else, I would advise checking all expectations at the door before diving in.  There are a handful of bright spots here to satisfy, and for anyone looking to check out Blondie’s post-millennium output, Pollinator represents the perfect place to start.

Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars