For their first album in three years, Blondie engaged in some crowd-sourcing from a very elite crowd, soliciting writing contributions from Johnny Marr, Sia, Charli XCX, and Dave Sitek. Each wrote (or co-wrote) songs that blatantly mimic the kind of vintage Blondie tracks that would have made them fans in the first place.
That easily could have resulted in a run of body-snatched versions of Blondie classics but, surprisingly, these guests do their host proud. While the single “Long Time,” penned by Dev Hynes of Blood Orange, recycles the disco beat and flickering riff of 1978’s “Heart of Glass,” it has a melody all its own. Other songs similarly echo the rhythms, licks, and production tricks from the band’s ‘80s new wave prime, only to get tweaked with fresh flourishes.
Blondie — whose current lineup retains just the core trio of Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, and power drummer Clem Burke — are hardly wallflowers at their own party. Harry and Stein penned the archetypal opening number, “Doom or Destiny,” and co-wrote other pieces with their guests along the way.
“Doom” sets a second rubric for the project by featuring a steady string of guest performers, including Joan Jett, Laurie Anderson, and the Strokes’ Nick Valensi. Notice a pattern with those names? All hail from New York, which underscores the importance of the city in Blondie’s DNA.
The lyrics on the album also honor the group’s connection to New York’s wise-ass sensibility, and they cast Harry as the ultimate femme fatale. “Tell me what makes the world go round / Is it love or is it gravity,” she dryly sings in the Charli XCX-penned song “Gravity.” At age 71, Harry still infuses her performances with maximum attitude, especially in “Love Level,” where her lyrics cut a tall man down to size. “Everyone can see you’ve got inches on me / But when we’re lying down / The difference diminishes,” she sings.
If songs like these paint Pollinator as Blondie’s self-tribute album, who cares. They deserve it after all these years.
“When I Give Up On You”
One of the album’s few ballads soars on lyrics that sneer about a break-up that took too long to happen.
Co-written by TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek, “Fun” slyly references Blondie’s classic brand of it.