It's been 36 years since Pretenders came together in England, and over the course of their 10-album history, leader Chrissie Hynde has been the only constant member of the band. So it's interesting that at this point in her career, she's decided to release her first solo album.
Chrissie always said that she never envisioned herself a solo artist, which makes the appearance of Stockholm even more surprising. There really isn't all that much difference between Stockholm and earlier Pretenders albums, where she was clearly the lone driving force (like 1990's Packed!). But in reality, when you think Chrissie Hynde, you think Pretenders, and vice versa.
Stockholm follows the 2010 release of Fidelity, the lone album from Chrissie's short-lived group JP, Chrissie and the Fairground Boys. Stockholm gets its name from the city where the album was recorded, and its billing simply comes from the fact that there weren't any Pretenders around to play with!
While the difference between a Pretenders album and a Chrissie Hynde solo album may be barely recognizable, one listen to Stockholm reveals that it does, in fact, have a quality that sets itself apart: the influence of the album's producer, Bjorn Yttling, of Sweden's Peter Bjorn and John. It may be billed as a solo album, but this is clearly a collaborative effort.
Bjorn's influence is clear on songs like "You're The One," "House Of Cards" and "You Or No One." There's also the presence of Neil Young's Crazy Horse-driven crunch on "Down The Wrong Way" and John McEnroe (yes, THAT John McEnroe) playing guitar on the spaghetti Western-sounding "A Plan Too Far." "Dark Sunglasses," "You Or No One," "Sweet Nuthin'" and "Like In The Movies" are fine pop moments, but it's the album's finale, "Adding The Blue," that packs the punch of Chrissie's best work.
I also found myself drawn to "In A Miracle," which couples a simple arrangement with the grand sweep of Bjorn Yttling's hand. Ultimately, it is of little consequence that this is Chrissie Hynde solo, as opposed to a Pretenders album. What gives Stockholm its personality and sets it apart from her past work is the pop influence and contemporary sensibility that Bjorn Yttling gives to the veteran rocker.
From the FUV Vault:
• The Pretenders Studio A Session, 2008