Ah, Blondie. Those happy days of glorious power pop, chilly disco and rich, fruity vocals — Debbie Harry yearning away like a very bad alleycat on heat. ‘X Offender’, ‘In the Flesh’, ‘Picture This’ and that one where she’s in the phone booth, apparently gagging for it. People knock it, but the late 1970s wasn’t a bad time to be a teenager. And while Blondie may have been a rather calculating act, cleverly positioned on the fringe of punk and the fringe of pop and the fringe of disco and later even rap, they were at least likeable and the tunes were, largely, effortlessly and simplistically terrific. And then there was Debbie. She actually did shag Johnny Thunders in a phone booth at the CBGB club in New Yawk — which, when I read about it, seemed cooler than anything I could imagine.
Debbie is now 71 years old, but it seems she’s still in that phone booth, the one across the hall, gagging for it. Good for her. Blondie are back with a new album, Pollinator, and have enlisted help from the likes of (among others) Johnny Marr, Joan Jett and David Sitek from New York’s most interesting band of the current century, TV On The Radio. Pollinator reeks of the mid-1980s, which is not a bad thing to reek of, commercially, right now. Tinny synths, occasional Moroderish beats and big-bollocked power chords. There are some decent tunes — ‘Fun’, a piece of electro froth, and ‘Already Naked’ (yep, she’s still up for it), one of only three tunes written in-house. The album teeters, weirdly, into bombast and pomposity now and then, which is depressing. But overall it’s as good a record as this rapidly dying genre, rock, deserves. ‘Oooh,’ Debs once crooned, ‘warm and soft, in the flesh’. A nice memory, and only slightly sullied by Pollinator.
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.