My first exposure to Blondie was aged 7, via the soundtrack to the iconic 2003 film The Lizzie McGuire Movie, which opens with Hilary Duff trying on various outfits and lip syncing to Atomic Kitten’s cover of ‘The Tide Is High’. While Atomic Kitten probably have their merits, I was a lot more impressed when I was then shown the Blondie version, which turned The Paragons’ song into a number 1 hit in 1980. Though they have continued to release music since their initial break up in 1982, it is this era that comes to mind when I think of Blondie. So I was thrilled, on the release of their new album Pollinator, to find a return to that specific sound that appealed to me so much when I was younger.
‘Doom Or Destiny’, a song which examines the uncertainties of falling in love, kicks off the album and propels the listener straight back to their early music with its recognisable synth and harmonies. This is followed by ‘Long Time’, a track which, with its hints of disco and its catchy chorus, is a real highlight of the record. Melodically and lyrically it is one of the most interesting, and, considering that other songs on the album are credited to a range of impressive artists, such as Johnny Marr, Sia, and Dec Hynes, it says a lot that the best song on the album is one of the few co-written by Debbie Harry herself. The middle of the album lulls a little, suffering lyrically in songs such as ‘Fun’, (part of the chorus running “You’re my fun/too much fun/isn’t fun”) and the rather boring melody of ‘Best Day Ever’. However, it is picked up again by the grungy, distorted tune of ‘Gravity’, written by Charli XCX, which, while still being quite a contemporary song, finds its strength in hearkening back to Blondie’s punk days.
Ending the album are three very different songs, which together bring the record to a nice conclusion. ‘When I Gave Up On You’ is the slowest song on the album, and, despite its slightly corny chorus, the unpredictable melody of the verses make it an interesting listen and a sweetly nostalgic track. ‘Too Much’ is one of my favourites on the album – a relentlessly upbeat tune transmitting a positive message about moving on from toxic relationships, with an infectious chorus which lands just on the right side of cheesy. The final song is, interestingly, a cover of ‘Fragments’ by AnUnkindness, a little-known indie artist from Vancouver. While it is unexpected that they would end their album on someone else’s song, Blondie make it their own, completely transforming the song from angsty piano-driven folk to dramatic prog rock.
Blondie can still replicate and update their iconic sound
It’s extremely impressive that over forty years since they first formed, Blondie can still replicate and update their iconic sound. Debbie Harry, now aged 71, is still on top form, and while you can hear her age in her voice, her talent is no less obvious than it was in her thirties. They are clearly just as accessible and relevant as they were in the 80s, as is proved by the fact that many people have stories similar to mine of how they discovered Blondie – through Hilary Duff, School of Rock, or even One Direction’s cover of ‘One Way Or Another’. Whatever route originally brought you to Blondie’s music, they have certainly proved in Pollinator that they’re still well worth a listen, after all these years.