The Pretenders - Hate for Sale Music Album Reviews


Chrissie Hynde brings back some old bandmates for a brisk record that acknowledges The Pretenders are best when they’re direct and unadorned. 

Chrissie Hynde is the only constant in the Pretenders. In the early ’80s, she suffered the twin losses of guitarist James Honeyman-Scott and bassist Pete Farndon. While her first official drummer Martin Chambers usually was by her side, serving as the anchor for a revolving series of guitarists and bassists, he occasionally took his leave. The pair were on the outs by 1986’s Get Close, but he returned to the fold during the recording of 1994’s Last of the Independents, and he has remained part of the Pretenders ever since, touring with the band even though he sat out every session since 2002’s Loose Screw.


Chambers returns to the studio for Hate for Sale, a brisk record that makes no apologies for relying on the flinty rock’n’roll the band has long since patented. In a sense, it’s a kindred spirit to Alone, the 2016 Pretenders LP produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. Auerbach encouraged Hynde to rekindle the swagger and sneer of the first two Pretenders albums, assembling a cracker-jack crew of professional musicians to back her. If you didn’t listen too closely, Alone sounded like a Pretenders album, but it didn’t feel like one.

Hate for Sale, by contrast, feels like a Pretenders album. Maybe it helps that it’s helmed by Stephen Street—a producer who has long specialized in making the workaday combination of guitar, drums, and bass sound extraordinary. Street previously worked with the group on 1995’s acoustic live album The Isle of View and 1999’s ¡Viva El Amor!, so he’s familiar with their strengths and quirks, realizing they’re at their best when they’re direct and unadorned. The no-frills sound of Hate for Sale could be called a back-to-basics if Hynde had ever budged from this sound to begin with. She’s sanded its edges to glide onto adult contemporary radio, and she’s flirted with passing trends, but she’s always centered herself with those ringing guitars.

Street gives six strings plenty of room on Hate for Sale. Hynde is back playing rhythm guitar, weaving in between the leads of James Walbourne, the guitarist who also co-wrote the album’s ten songs. Most of the sounds are familiar—“Didn’t Want to Be This Lonely” bops to a Bo Diddley beat, just like “Cuban Slide” did back in 1980—but the execution is smart and precise. Often, Hynde’s words match the sonic onslaught, particularly on the album’s venomous title track and on the glammy stomp “Turf Account Daddy,” but the lyrics aren’t the focal point. Maybe that’s a good thing: when the tempo slows and the guitars fall away, it’s too easy to hear Hynde taking a jab at emotionally aware modern women, as when she sings “Feminists claim that we’re all the same/But I don’t know a man who’s felt the same shame” on the bridge of the overwrought closing ballad “Crying in Public.”


Such callousness isn’t unexpected. Despite scoring a smash adult contemporary hit with 1994’s “I’ll Stand By You,” sensitivity has never been a strong suit of Hynde’s, either on record or in public, so it is a welcome surprise for the Pretenders to deliver one of their finest ballads on Hate for Sale in the form of “You Can’t Hurt a Fool,” a slow-burner with a Memphis R&B undercurrent. The track’s understated simmer comes courtesy of Chambers, whose presence is palpable everywhere on the record. Hynde responds to the drummer’s studio return not just by writing the band’s tightest rock record in ages but by thrusting the group’s interplay to the forefront. By doing so, she makes an effective case that the Pretenders are indeed a rock’n’roll band, not a singer-songwriter in disguise.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

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The Pretenders - Hate for Sale Music Album Reviews The Pretenders - Hate for Sale Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Wednesday, July 29, 2020 Rating: 5

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