Musical entities that endure for decades, age with the eras are always worth consideration. Artists who can’t hold back the drive to create throughout their whole life command a certain respectability. It’s been almost 40 years since Blondie found mainstream success with their first hit, “Heart of Glass”. They fizzled out in the early ‘80s and returned in 1999. They’ve been active since, doing their part to keep new-wave-punk-whatever alive. May 5, they released a new album, titled Pollinator.
The legendary Joan Jett features as backing vocals on Pollinator’s intro track “Doom or Destiny”, a runaway melodic-pop-rock jingle. Light, energetic guitars wail over the crashing drumline as the lead repeats the title of the track in a very measured yell. It’s enjoyable at first. Most of the album shares this light catchiness and vibrant energy. Every track on the first half employs very similar musical stylings, and there’s not much to set any one track on the album apart from the rest. The drums, keyboard, and guitar behave in largely the same way every track. Every track comes with a catchy jingle for the lead singer to repeat ad nauseum during the chorus.
The production is clean, but they can’t distract from the music itself being so sanitized and repetitive. Paradoxically, the first half of Pollinator is chock full of energetic pop-rock jams, all formulaic and calculated, and these songs manage to get tired fast.
They finally break the repetition towards the end — “When I Gave Up On You” is a decently charming and more original song, and lead Debbie Harry’s voice connects well with the performance of her band. “Love Level” is a more poppy, softer rendition of Blondie’s sound that reveals something more well-polished, though John Robert’s vocal feature is jarring to say the least. The last track (not counting the hidden track) is “Fragments”, another refreshing change to the formula, a slow, melancholy piece that breaks into a full sprint halfway through.
The hidden track, a similar endeavor titled “Tonight”, is also refreshing in its contrast to the repetitive first half, complete with a good and emotional performance from Debbie Harry. It’s all still very sanitary, even for new-wave, but at least they start fiddling with it.
Pollinator is out now on BMG and Infectious.