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The Pretenders

The Pretenders (photo by Matt Holyoak, PR)

The Pretenders (photo by Matt Holyoak, PR)

by

The Pretenders
Hate for Sale
BMG Records

Chrissie Hynde, one of rock’s preeminent female stars, has produced some of the toughest rock and roll of the past four decades with her band, The Pretenders. Forty years after the Pretenders’ iconic debut album (Pretenders) and less than a year after Hynde’s album of jazzy pop covers (Valve Bone Woe), the Pretenders are back with a vengeance with Hate for Sale, a tough rock record that stirs up memories of the band’s golden early years.

Hate for Sale is the band’s eleventh studio album and their twelfth overall. It follows 2016’s Dan Auerbach produced Alone, which was released as a Pretenders album despite Hynde being the only band member involved. But this time out the Pretenders are at full strength, with Hynde joined by her longtime drumming comrade Martin Chambers, lead guitarist James Walbourne (who joined in 2008), bassist Nick Wilkinson (who joined in 2005), and keyboardist Carwyn Ellis (a recent addition to the band).

Obviously, the lone constant in the Pretenders is Hynde, the band’s vocalist, rhythm guitarist, principal songwriter and founder. In fact, there have been plenty of occasions in the band’s history when it’s been totally accurate to simply say that Hynde is the Pretenders.

The Pretenders came together in 1978, when Hynde called on lead guitarist James Honeyman-Scott, bassist Pete Farndon, and drummer Martin Chambers. Their first release was a Nick Lowe produced cover of the Kinks’ “Stop Your Sobbing,” issued as a single in early 1979. By year’s end, their debut album Pretenders appeared and featured the aforementioned “Stop Your Sobbing,” as well as “Kid” and the U.K. No. 1 hit, “Brass in Pocket,” which was also their first charting single in the U.S. The album went on to top the U.K. album charts and also reached No. 9 in the U.S.

The second album, Pretenders II, followed in the summer of 1981 and featured the U.K. hits “Talk of the Town,” “Message of Love,” and “I Go to Sleep.” But tragedy would strike the band twice in June 1982. First, Farndon was fired on June 14 due to his escalating drug abuse. Two days later, on June 16, Honeyman-Scott died of heart failure due to his cocaine use. Then, sadly, Farndon also died on April 14, 1983, another victim of drug abuse.

These were two devastating blows for Hynde, but with Chambers at her side she kept the Pretenders alive despite being unable or unwilling to keep a steady lineup together for any length of time. Through the years, the Pretenders boasted talented players like guitarists Robbie McIntosh and Adam Seymour, bassists Malcolm Foster, Andy Hobson, and T.M. Stevens, and drummer Blair Cunningham.

For Hynde, Hate for Sale comes after an active 10-year period where she found several new outlets for her music, in addition to fronting the Pretenders. In 2010, she formed a new band with singer J.P. Jones called J.P., Chrissie and the Fairground Boys, releasing one album, Fidelity. In 2014, Hynde released her solo debut album, Stockholm, and last year she was accompanied by the Valve Bone Woe Ensemble on an album of jazz and pop covers called Valve Bone Woe. In the middle of all this, Hynde found the time to release Alone, which up until now was the latest Pretenders album.

As for original member Chambers, his on-again, off-again tenure with the Pretenders hits on-again mode on Hate for Sale. Chambers, who did leave the band in 1986 only to return in 1994, was absent from the Pretenders last two albums, 2008’s Break Up the Concrete and Alone, but he is back on this new one, his first time playing in the studio with the band he helped form since the 2002 album, Loose Screw.

Out of the gate, Hate for Sale hits hard with the raucous punk of the driving title track. Both “The Buzz” and “Turf Accountant Daddy” could very easily have been favorites on one of the band’s 1980s albums. Like many punk and New Wave albums to come from a predominantly British rock band, Hate for Sale boasts a shot of reggae in “Lightning Man.” Inspired by the Specials, Hynde wrote “Lightning Man” after learning about the declining health and eventual death of Richard Swift in 2018. Swift had contributed to the Pretenders’ Alone.

A trademark of any Pretenders album is the presence of at least one heartfelt, soulful ballad and “You Can’t Hurt A Fool” is it on Hate for Sale. Beautifully sung, it’s a fine example of Hynde’s skills as a nuanced, expressive, and passionate vocalist.

Hynde’s love of painting is at the heart of “I Didn’t Know When To Stop.” She explains in the band bio:  “(It’s) about the awful moment when you don’t stop when the painting’s finished and f*** the whole thing up.” Hynde’s experiences from working with the Black Keys’ Auerbach on Alone seem to have left a lasting impression on her, as the stomping “Junkie Walk” seems like it was torn out of the Black Keys playbook.

Finally, “Crying In Public,” featuring the Duke Quartet (who have appeared on Pretenders albums in the past), closes Hate for Sale on a tender note, offering a sampling of another Hynde trait—her knack of delivering an emotionally drenched ballad.

Hate for Sale is a quick thirty and a half minute jolt of Pretenders adrenaline. All ten songs were written by Hynde and Walbourne and Hate for Sale was produced by Stephen Street, who has an acclaimed history of working with the Pretenders in the past.

When all is said and done, Hate for Sale is brimming with all of the qualities that built much of the Pretenders’ best material. With Hynde working again with Chambers and the others, Hate for Sale sounds like quintessential Pretenders, and that is always a good thing.

Listen to Eric Holland's conversation with Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders available on demand.

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