(out 21 October 2016 through Liberator Music/BMG)
- Roadie Man
- Gotta Wait
- Never Be Together
- Let’s Get Lost
- Chord Lord
- Blue Eyed Sky
- The Man You Are
- One More Day
- I Hate Myself
- Death Is Not Enough
- Holy Commotion
“It’s good to hear The Pretenders again.” It was these simple words that heralded the unforeseen return of the greatest group on the planet.
Chrissie Hynde had been working on solo project with the Black Key’s Dan Auerbach in his Nashville studio, when it dawned that those driving guitars, ragged-but-righteous arrangements, the tough yet tender lyrics delivered by the most distinctive voice of a generation sounded fantastically familiar. Ultimately, this could only mean one thing: Pretenders were back.
And this wasn’t a cynical brand reboot, more a happy accident. Chrissie Hynde shrugs, still as cool as the other side of the pillow. “These things happen. It’s just a name.”
Thirty six years after Pretenders’ first album, the new album Alone could be the older, wiser, badder sister to their exhilarating debut. It’s that good.
“It’s a riot,” announces Chrissie Hynde, “I am blown away myself. I really am. Every time I hear it, it just makes me laugh. To me if you are laughing it is rock and roll. I don’t know how we achieved it but it sounds classic. I guess the team just went out and scored some goals.”
The team, approvingly described by Hynde as “real people playing real instruments”, features Johnny Cash’s former bass player Dave Roe and country rocker Kenny Vaughan on guitar plus sundry members of Dan Auerbach’s side project The Arcs: Richard Swift on drums, Leon Michels on keyboards, and Russ Pahl providing sly curlicues of pedal steel.
Auerbach stood as captain, producer, multi-instrumentalist – he unleashes some outlandish electric guitar – and all round cool head, and the album was mixed by Tchad Blake, whom Hynde says “makes cool stuff sound even better”.
It has been time well spent because these songs are special. The title track ‘Alone’ is a superbly spiky take on the joys of solitude. While Alone is unique in its outlook, and deliciously defiant in execution, the most immediately arresting lyric on the album is the open-a-vein honesty of ‘I Hate Myself’. Meanwhile, ‘The Man You Are’ – ostensibly a simple love song – expresses a distinct distaste for money worshippers. Romantic resignation also runs through the album like a river, in ballads such as the wistful ‘Blue Eyed Sky’ and the aching ‘One More Day’. Even the softly-crooned ‘Roadie Man’ is wreathed in yearning. Hynde’s famously acerbic side is well served by the pounding, impatient ‘Gotta Wait’ and the dumped and indignant ‘Chord Lord’. The sole songwriting collaboration on Alone is with contemporary hit-makers Amanda Ghost and Dave McCracken, a seductive entreaty called ‘Let’s Get Lost’. Meanwhile, Duane Eddy features on ‘Never Be Together’, where the twangtastic 78 year old’s elegant contribution poignantly complements the album’s beguiling glow of vintage valves and shadowy mystery. ‘Death Is Not Enough’, written by Marek Rymaszewski, is a show stopper in every sense.
“There is quite a lot of death on this album,” she reflects. “The first song ‘Alone’ ends up in a graveyard talking to someone who has died. Then the second-last song is ‘Death Is Not Enough’, which to me sounds like you’re talking to someone who is lying in a coffin. So the album begins and ends with the recurring theme of death.”
Her fellow solo traveller, and ally, Morrissey believes being on one’s own to be “a privilege” and maintains that alone doesn’t always mean lonely. Hynde says “let’s not in any way diminish the fact that loneliness is an epidemic in our society.”