Album review: Blondie – Pollinator

Blondie - Pollinator (BMG).
Blondie - Pollinator (BMG).

This is the 11th studio album by one of the world’s most influential and legendary bands, and catches them in fine form.

Their first since 2014’s electro-leaning Ghosts Of Download, it’s also their best record since they reformed 20 years ago, and shows that more than 40 years into their career, they still have something relevant to offer.

Much of the focus in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s was understandably on blonde bombshell singer Debbie Harry, who was always keen to stress that Blondie was a band, not simply a vehicle for her.

That’s probably never been more the case, with original guitarist Chris Stein and drummer Clem Burke still steering the trademark Blondie sound, with the help of newer bandmates Leigh Foxx on bass, Tommy Kessler on guitar and Matt Katz-Bohen on keys.

Blondie were always great innovators, progressing from punk roots to embrace new wave, disco, pop, reggae and rap, but while they don’t break any new ground here, they’re not simply retreading past glories either.

The songwriting duo of Stein and Harry get the record underway in style with probably its standout track, Doom Or Destiny, which is classic Blondie, features Joan Jett on backing vocals, and is perhaps the best song they’ve written since their comeback No. 1, Maria.

They penned only one more on the 11 tracks here, Love Level, with Katz-Bohen contributing Already Naked and Too Much, and the rest consisting of collaborations with a cast of notable writers.

Harry is joined by Dey Hynes (Lightspeed Champion) for the excellent synth-driven disco-punk tune Long Time, which sounds very much like the back story of the band, while Johnny Marr contributed and plays guitar on My Monster.

Other writers include TV on the Radio 's David Sitek, singer-songwriter Sia, and Nick Valensi from The Strokes, and electropop sensationCharli XCX.

All were influenced by Blondie in the first place, so it’s fitting that they should keep such a legendary band sounding so fresh on what Harry calls “a celebration of recycling”.

When I Gave Up On You is a real change of pace, sounds like a love letter from Harry to former partner Stein, and is another contender for the album’s high spot.

There’s even a ‘hidden’ 12th track on the CD version, the Charlie XCX-penned Tonight, which sees Harry share vocals with O Superman singer Laurie Anderson.

It’s not in the same league as Parallel Lines or Eat To The Beat, but at this stage of their career it's great that Blondie have made an album worthy of their legacy. 8/10.