Sunday, September 24, 2023

Kat's Korner: Pretenders are RESTLESS and Alive

Kat: Over jangling guitars, Chrissie Hynde declares, "I must be going through a metamorphosis/ Pre-senile dementia or some kind of psychosis."  If it's a psychosis, let's hope it's contagious and that more musicians get similar diagnosis because RELENTLESS, the new album from Pretenders, is 12 tracks of perfection.

In the 20th century, Pretenders delivered with many great songs including "Brass In Pocket," "Middle Of The Road," "Don't Get Me Wrong," "Message Of Love," "Back On The Chain Gang," "2000 Miles," "Kid," "My Baby," "My City Was Gone," "I'll Stand By You," "Never Do That," "Bad Boys Get Spanked," "Sense of Purpose," "Hymn To Her," "Show Me," "Talk of the Town," "Precious," "Criminal," "When Will I See You," "Chill Factor," "When I Change My Life," "Private Life," "Time The Avenger," "I Hurt You" and "Night In My Veins."  

Chrissie Hynde's been the front person for the band since it started.  In addition to singing, she plays rhythm guitar, electric guitar, etc  and she writes a lot of the band's songs.  In the 20th century, Martin Chambers was the only other constant in the band.  They went through numerous members -- some dropped out, some dropped dead (two original members of the band -- James Honeymoon-Scott and Pete Farndon -- died from drug usage.

The band's continued in the 21st century and Martin played drums on 2002's LOOSE SCREW but disappeared for 2008's BREAK UP THE CONCRETE (the only Pretenders album I loathe).  He was absent on 2016's ALONE as well but returned for 2020's HATE FOR SALE.  

In the 21st century, they didn't just release albums, the band continued to make music worth listening to -- tracks like "Crying In Public,"  "Saving Grace," "I Hate Myself," You Know Who Your Friends Are," "Maybe Love Is In NYC," "Death Is Not Enough," "Alone," "Nothing Breaks Like A Heart," "You Didn't Have To" and "Didn't Want To Be This Lonely."  

RESTLESS is out three years after the last album and, this century, that's a pretty quick turn around for the band.  Even more so if you look at Chrissie's solo output.  Last century, as a solo artist, her solo output was more sporadic and lower key -- for example, she'd do a duet with Frank Sinatra ("Luck Be A Lady" on DUETS II), or cover "I Got You Babe" and "Breakfast In Bed" with UB40 or record "Love Can Build A Bridge" with Cher, Nenah Cherry and Eric Clapton.  On the FRIENDS soundtrack, you could find her performing "Angel of the Morning" -- from the episode where she played the former friend and writing partner of Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) who co-authored "Smelly Cat."

But this century, she's released three albums.  2014's classic STOCKHOLM, 2019's messy (but listenable) VALVE BONE WOE and the 2021 album of covers STANDING IN THE DOORWAY: CHRISSIE HYNDE SINGS BOB DYLAN.


Chrissie's been on an artistic high and, since 2014's "Dark Sunglasses," it's been an amazing trips -- one that none of her peers can equal artistically.  

RELENTLESS continues the exploration.  The band this go round is Chrissie, Chris Hill on bass, Carwyn Ellis on multiple instruments,  Dave Page on bass, Kris Sonne on drums primarily, and James Walbourne on multiple instruments.

 I don't know who'll still be in the band on the next album but RELENTLESS makes clear that there's more than enough life in the band for the rocking to continue.  

The twelve tracks -- all written by Chrissie and James Walbourne -- are amazing and this is another classic Pretenders album.  For me, the classics are -- in this order -- LEARNING TO CRAWL, HATE FOR SALE, ISLE OF VIEW, PACKED, GET CLOSE, ALONE and the self-titled debut.  So, unless you count THE SINGLES (a collection, not a studio album or a live album), RELENTLESS is the band's eighth classic album.  Few get even one.  Pretenders is in the elite company of The Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Sly and the Family Stone and very few others.  Again, it's really difficult for a band to have one classic album, let alone multiple ones.  

But listen to just two tracks. "Just Let It Go" first.

That's such a moving song and note Chrissie's vocals.  She's always been one of the finest singers in the rock genre which is why she's so good when she does a cover song like the Persuaders' "Thin Line Between Love & Hate," or Jimi Hendrix's "Roomful of Mirrors" or the Kinks' "Stop Your Sobbing," or . . .   She's a one of kind, you hear her voice and you know it's her, she sounds like no one else.  And her voice has just gotten richer.  

Now "I Think About You Daily."

I was in my prime
A lucky dog was I
Everything was going my way
The apple of many's eye
I took my chances and I won
I gambled and stayed ahead
I never once looked back
Or had my fortune read

Now I think about you daily
But it only makes me sad
Things that got away
I treated you real bad
Now each morning when I wake up
It's you that's on my mind
You never can get over
Losing those you've did unkind
I think about you daily

Here's a good question: When is someone do a cover album of Chrissie's songwriting.  Chrissie Hynde is an excellent songwriter.  So who's going to be strong enough to cover Chrissie?  Liz Phair?  Billy Corgan?  Janelle Monae?  The Artic Monkeys?  

Someone needs to step up to the plate.  She's written a litany of rock classics and that just continues to be the case on RESTLESS so please check it out.