Sunday, November 06, 2016

Kat's Korner: Pretenders roll on

Kat: "Alone" kicks things off with confidence and swagger.  A Pretenders album has open so self-assured since the classic LEARNING TO CRAWL.


Some carp that the group is now just Chrissie Hynde.


In 1980, the group was having its first hit with "Brass In Pocket" (written by Chrissie and James Honeyman-Scott) and the foursome was Pete Farndon, Martin Chambers, James and Chrissie.

In 1981, the group would release PRETENDERS II.  The following year, both James and Pete would die.

That left Martin and Chrissie.

Martin's a solid drummer but no one would deny that Chrissie was the driving force in keeping the band going.

LEARNING TO CRAWL was the first of three classic albums for the band.  The eclectic GET CLOSE would follow in 1986 but the real stand out may have been 1990's PACKED!

PACKED! was the kid that got beat up in the school yard but it's more than stood the test of time.  It's truly sublime and by the time it closes with "Criminal," it's hard to dispute that there was a better rock band -- and that might have caused a problem for some since Chrissie was the only original Pretender on the album.

LAST OF THE INDEPENDENTS comes along in 1994 and Martin Chambers rejoins the band for a so-so album that's good points are overwhelmed by the production as well as song crafters Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly's 'assistance' on five songs.  Steinberg and Kelly -- as well as Martin Chambers -- would return for 1999's VIVA EL AMOR and the question would be "why?" were it not for 1995's live album THE ISLE OF VIEW -- a classic that reminded the world how great the band could be.

But VIVA was a disappointment as were LOOSE SCREWS and BREAK UP THE CONCRETE.

Two years ago, Chrissie had an artistic resurgence with the release of her first solo album STOCKHOLM.

Originally, ALONE was going to be a follow up to that album but as she worked on the album, with Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, she realized it was a band album so she pulled together a band: Kenny Vaughan, Russ Pahl, Leon Michaels, Dave Roe and Richard Swift.

Track for track, the 12 songs that make up ALONE are the strongest material the band's produced since 1990.  And you know Chrissie's taking that material and hitting it out of the park with her vocals.

He knows, he knows
My love it overflows 
Like rivers to the sea
He comes and goes
My love it grows and grows
And doubles when he leaves
And doubles when he leaves
Oooh, no one understands
But my baby
Oooh, no one understands
Like that man

That's from "Blue Eyed Sky" which is one of two majectic ballads (the other being "Death Is Not Enough").  And by "majestic ballads," I don't mean power ballads.  These aren't formulaic, there's no hint that Mutt Lange was in or near the studio when the two tracks were recorded.

"Roadie Man," "Gotta Wait," "Chord Lord" and "Never Be Together" are strong up tempo numbers.

My favorites tracks are probably "Blue Eyed Sky," "Never Be Together," "I Hate Myself," "Alone" and "Death Is Not Enough."

But on another day, the combination might vary.

This is a solid album with zero, absolutely zero, filler.

It's one of 2016's best music releases -- possibly the finest.