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Monday, January 16, 2017

Alone

The Pretenders, as the name of a band, have been around for almost forty years, but there has only been one constant--Chrissie Hynde. Two years she put out a solo album, Stockholm, that I didn't think much of. Perhaps she needs to use The Pretenders name, because the new album, Alone, is Hynde somewhat back to form.

The whys and wherefores of the difference between a Hynde solo album and a Pretenders album these days are mysterious. The musicians on this album are not the any of the old Pretenders, they are mostly session musicians, along with the producer and guitar player Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. Hynde plays no instruments on this record, just sings, and has co-written most of the songs.

The title track gets things thumping with a tribute to solitude:

"Nobody tells me I can't
Nobody tells me I shan't
Nobody tells me 'you're doing it wrong!'
I'm at my best. I'm where I belong.
Alone."

That sounds like a woman who isn't looking for a relationship right now. At 65, she's been divorced twice. But there are other songs on the album of the typical love variety, such as "Roadie Man," about a love for those guys, who, as Jackson Browne once sang, "Pack it up and tear it down:"

"I'm in love with a man,
He's in love with the road.
It's no surprise, it's no riddle,
A roadie's wife plays second fiddle,
To the razzle dazzle of the stage,
She has to be a widow and a sage."

A much better song is "Blue Eyed Sky," a ballad that celebrates a long-nurtured love:

"No one understands me
Like my baby
No one understands
Like that man.
He knows
I will never leave him,
No one understand me,
Like him."

I think the gutsiest song on the album is "I Hate Myself," which is not so much a song about self-pity as one about self-recognition:

" I hate myself, I hate myself, I hate myself
For backing the wrong horse
I hate myself, I hate myself, I hate my masquerade
Of black and blue
I hate myself, I hate my reckless, phony
Self-destruction course
And coming last, conceding second best to you."

Musically, the album is solid rock and roll, as one would expect from one of The Black Keys. Hynde's voice is in perfect form--on "Alone" she starts by talking the song, but then hits one of her smooth, high notes and Hynde fans are on board. So whoever happens to be in The Pretenders, the only one that matters is Chrissie Hynde.

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