Innovators of pop punk, Blondie, have come out with a new album Pollinator that just may be the 2017 equivalent of their 1978 classic album Parallel Lines.
The leadoff single, Fun, certainly lives up to its name. It’s a witty, entertaining song reminiscent of tracks off the Parallel Lines record. While the production value is right in keeping with today’s great pop tracks, it’s still the sound that made Blondie so famous. Its pacing is urgent while laid back. The spaces in between the melodies breathe. It punches and kicks with the fervour of vintage punk, and grooves and slides with the sway of fantastic funk. It’s a perfect Blondie mix of rhythmic bass and guitar lines and bright up front vocals, blending new wave with disco, claiming its territory like a beautiful love child of New York City’s Studio 54 era Nile Rodgers (Chic) with London era Chrissie Hynde from The Pretenders.
Blondie’s star power and credibility have allowed them to bring in some epic collaborations for this record, including Blood Orange, Laurie Anderson, Joan Jett, Johnny Marr, Charli XCX, Sia and members from New York’s TV On The Radio and the Strokes.
Debbie Harry’s long time guitarist Chris Stein, who co-wrote hits with her like Heart of Glass, recently talked about the new record by saying, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution, and in these trying times we need some fun. We’re very serious about fun.”
Fun is clearly a winner of a single. Also on the record is My Monster, penned by Johnny Marr (guitar player for The Smiths), which while not as fun as Fun, deals with weightier issues like the demon in all of us. Debbie Harry’s singing has an uncanny way of floating unaffected through even the most intense rock tracks. In My Monster, she holds a steady – almost single note – vocal line, leaving the backup vocals and old school synth sounds to storm around her. Surfing the artfully placed harmonic modulations under the words “mutate imagination”, she positions herself as a calm witness to the thrashings of our inner monsters.
Long Time is effervescent with 80s synth high notes bubbling, even as the guitar and deep synth notes drive hard through the first half of the song. Then, at a shockingly early point in the song, the orchestration drops out. Vocals and guitars alone hold a moment of earnestness on the chorus: “Does it take you a long time, does it make you upset, does it make you think everybody wants to be your friend? I can give you a heartbeat…”. The orchestration comes back in with a slow build that never returns to the previous drive, but takes you to a sweeter place.
Gravity harks back to the gentle lamentation of Heart of Glass, yet with a more weighty rock feel. Again, Harry’s vocals ride the wave while the guitar counter-melody drives the momentum.
Other tracks on Pollinator include Love Level, Almost Naked and Best Day Ever. Blondie appear to be enjoying their longevity, treating it as a gift and paying it forward as they bring through music, attitude, style, laughter and fun to their audience.
In an era when many new wave acts are making money by playing the nostalgia circuit, touring back catalogues without substantial new material, Blondie remain current and relevant with catchy synth lines, drum lines that would impress Dave Grohl and bass lines that rival any Talking Heads track. Hooky, catchy licks compliment Debbie Harry’s vocals and show a band that seamlessly bridges the gap between electronica, pop and rock.
Pollinator is fun and exciting with a splash of old and a whole lot of new. The album drops on May 5th with pre-sales for vinyl and cassette tapes. How cool is that in this streaming digital age?
Rishi Deva is the CEO of Kupid’s Play Records. With two decades of experience in the music industry, Rishi has been nominated for numerous marketing awards and earned a Gold Record in the music industry for management.