There was a time when Blondie's legacy wasn't so assured. With just one cumbersome album, The Hunter (1982), born from a multitude of external and internal pressure, Blondie lost their grip on the zeitgeist they had held assuredly two years beforehand with Autoamerican (1980).
Jumping ahead to 1999 and their influence was irrepressible, imprinted on everyone and everything, from Madonna to No Doubt. An unlikely seventh LP, No Exit (1999), was the catalyst for a surprising second act that had Blondie breaking the tradition of what it meant to be an adult rock act. Three albums followed No Exit: The Curse of Blondie (2003), Panic of Girls (2011) and Ghosts of Download (2014). Each extended their presence into the modern era. On Pollinator, their eleventh studio album, Deborah Harry (vocals), Chris Stein (lead guitar), and Clem Burke (drums)―now 71, 67, and 61 respectively―hold fast as the dynamic center of Blondie's stylish and sundry rock and roll.
Under their guidance, producer John Congleton, several co-writers, and a handful of guests (Joan Jett, Dave Sitek, Sia Furler, Dev Hynes, etc.) help them construct this recent chapter of their distinct power pop. The rest of the group, cemented through the span of the aforementioned albums from Blondie's second wave―Leigh Foxx (bass), Matt Katz-Bohen (keyboards), and Tommy Kessler (second lead guitar)―make it come to electric life.
There's a relentless punk pound that's the pulse of Pollinator―Burke's drumming hasn't lost its snarl, as the dazzling “Doom or Destiny,” “Already Naked” and “Fun” display. But “Long Time” and “Love Level” platform Blondie's penchant for sonic spelunking by sewing in familiar sonic threads of disco and hip-hop into their guitar configurations. All of these components within Pollinator are focused, something lacking on Panic of Girls and Ghosts of Download, rendering a muddy finish to those forays. Pollinator recalls Blondie's peak form on The Curse of Blondie.
But it's Harry's voice that makes all of it work. From the LP's acerbic, wonderfully weird lyrics to its variegated songs, Harry grounds it all in her idiosyncratic, compelling vocals. Said voice has deepened into a velvety tonality with age, but Harry can still snap, crackle, pop, seduce and soothe like she did in her prime. On the capricious ballad, “When I Gave Up on You,” Harry's sensitivity is rare here, as she spends most of the record catwalking through it, her attitude infectious and unyielding―which isn't a bad thing.
“I don't like nostalgia especially,” Harry admitted to Clash Magazine recently. “It doesn't appeal to me. I understand why people want to go see bands that they grew up with or something like that, or relive a little. But our lives have always been centered around music. So to be going, ‘Remember? Remember? Remember?’...doesn't really do much for your creative mind.”
Avoiding the honey trap of reminiscence hasn't been easy, but it has always been worthwhile for Blondie. Their musical journey has produced efforts equally chic and messy, but that authenticity to create unflinchingly, to make mistakes and gain victories, is what has made Blondie what music needs, then and now.
Notable Tracks: “Doom or Destiny” | “Long Time” | “Love Level” | “Too Much”