Album Reviews

Pretenders

Alone

Artist:     Pretenders

Album:     Alone

Label:     BMG

Release Date:     10/21/2016

90

Retitle this release How Chrissie Got Her [Musical] Moxie Back.

Even though “Alone Song” is the first track on this latest tour de force under the Pretenders banner, it is the full-circle testament of an artist who’s brilliantly walked the emotional tightrope of brasher and seducer time and time again.

“Fuck off… I’ll do whatever I want,” she proclaims defiantly near the song’s end. It’s a return to form first showcased on the Pretenders’ very first track on their very first album. Sound familiar: “Not me, baby, I’m too precious, I had to fuck off.” And it’s this kind of attitude that makes Alone a great Pretenders album, rivaling the band’s first two releases in terms of laying it all on the line lyrically while tearing into their music with great abandon.

There are songs with snarl behind them – oh how I enjoyed the “Louie Louie” (Pretenders II) romp of “Gotta Wait,” including its abrupt ending. But Hynde also perfects the “come hither” mentality on this release – one minute she tells us “I like being alone” and then later she implores, “I wanna dance all night, be my baby!” (“Holy Commotion,” which contains a keyboard riff that’s pure 1984 Eurythmics). It’s almost like we don’t know which Hynde attracts us more, but we can’t help but be sucked into her coos, regardless of whether they’re blunt or sexy.

Attribute some of this revitalized punch to producer extraordinaire Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys and the Arcs, who undoubtedly has been influenced musically by the rawness of the Pretenders over his lifetime. Plus, he and Hynde share an immediate bred-in-Ohio connection, which adds the right amount of grittiness to the album. With his penchant for melodic guitar fuss, near-swampy production and tight song structure, Auerbach helps Hynde find her best voice in years – a technique that’s also worked wonders previously for pop songstress Lana Del Rey and New Orleans night-tripper Dr. John.

Other album highlights include “Roadie Man,” which showcases Hynde as Nancy Sinatra, complete with sensual breath behind her vocals and her emphasizing words in the same manner as a guitar’s whammy bar. “Never Be Together” brings twangy guitar legend Duane Eddy into the mix, while “Death is Not Enough” recalls the band’s passionate cover of “Thin Line Between Love and Hate” from their Learning to Crawl album.

It’s been eight years since the release of the band’s last album, but the wait is well worth it. A mystery achievement, perhaps? No, just a great album overall in what is fast becoming a 40-year legendary discography.

-Ira Kantor

Got something to say?