Good Songs, Not Much Emotion
Since the mid-1970s, Blondie have been entertaining listeners with a high-octane combination of punk and new wave synth-rock. 40 years later, they are back once again with 2017’s Pollinator.
The creative core of Blondie have never changed since the early days, as vocalist Debbie Harry and guitarist Chris Stein remain the architects of their sound. This means that, with Stein and Harry now in their sixties and seventies, respectively, the sound isn’t all that groundbreaking or new.
Pollinator offers many good moments. It opens with the punchy “Doom or Destiny,” which is reminiscent of early classics like “One Way Or Another.” Following that is the first single, the synthed-up, backbeat-grooving “Long Time.” Possibly, the most fun moment of the album is “Gravity,” a song penned by Charli XCX. It is a freewheeling rocker with a swirling keyboard melody reminiscent of Motion City Soundtrack’s best work. Other fun moments include the horn-laden “Love Level,” which has actor John Roberts (the voice of Linda Belcher on Bob’s Burgers) contributing extra vocals. Then, there is the closer, a cover of an Unkindness’s song “Fragments,” which gravitates from ballad to punk track to ballad again. Despite the fact that only three of Pollinator‘s eleven tracks were actually written by any members of Blondie, they all fit the band’s sound pretty well.
The album’s main drawback stems from the fact that there is general lack of originality and passion. Harry’s vocals on “Best Day Ever” are off-key during the chorus, which is a notable flaw in an otherwise strong song. It’s expected with longevity that there will be some drop-off in quality and creativity, and, while Blondie are largely able to steer clear of this problem, it doesn’t escape them altogether. There just doesn’t seem to be a huge amount of fire or motivation behind the songs, despite the fact that they’re largely catchy and well-constructed tunes. Blondie obviously aren’t unmotivated because they’re still making music, but the emotion that does exist comes off as tepid.
Overall, Pollinator is a good collection of songs that are fun to listen to — not a great collection, but a good one, very reminiscent of Blondie’s early work.