Hate For Sale

The Pretenders

BMG, 2020

http://thepretenders.com

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/30/2020

Sometimes to move forward, you have to go back or change track – I can’t remember whose book it was that bored me with this nugget of questionable wisdom but it seems that Chrissie Hynde may have read the same one at some point. For over forty years now, Hynde has ruffled feathers and rocked houses all over the globe initially as fearless leader and more so these days as flame keeper of The Pretenders.

Over the last two decades, Hynde has turned in albums credited to the band’s name despite sometimes never actually using her bandmates in the studio. For her latest outing, however, Hynde collected most of her current touring line-up to knock out these ten tracks which they were due to hit the road with this year until that pesky pandemic put an end to the live music world.

Hynde looked to her past and recruited her former producer of choice Stephen Street to oversee the project, which included original Pretender Martin Chambers on drums, Nick Wilkinson on bass, and her lead guitarist and co-writer James Walbourne. Two members of the live outfit in Carwyn Ellis and Eric Heywood were not required/available. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Hate For Sale is the band’s 11th studio album and one of the strongest of recent times due to the live band sound and the strength of the Hynde/Walbourne-penned tracks, of which only ten made the cut. With a playing time of just a tick over thirty minutes, it feels very much retro and a throwback to the classic Pretenders’ sound of the early ‘80s.

Hynde’s voice is a little easier on the ear these days but she still can pack a punch and cut a snarl over a swift key change like the best of them. The rhythm section is tight and economical and Walbourne’s lead playing is a heady mix of fiery riffs and breezy runs. My only gripe production-wise would be that it all sounds a little too clean; I could’ve done with some more grit and less polish.

The strongest cuts on the record are the more experimental tracks like the reggae-tinged “Lightning Man” and full-on retro stomp of “Turf Accountant Daddy.” “Maybe Love Is In NYC” plays it safe but beautifully so; it’s full of warm chunky guitars and Hynde’s equally sunny vocals. The fuzzy strut of “Junkie Walk” is classic Pretenders, as is the jumpy “I Didn’t Know When To Stop” – the latter featuring some killer harmonica fills.

“Didn’t Want To Be This Lonely” pays homage to Bo Diddley and “The Buzz” is virtually “Kid” circa 2020. The most curious moments (as usual with Hynde) come with the ballads: “You Can’t Hurt A Fool” is a sweet bluesy number and the album’s closer “Crying In Public” a gorgeous piano-led character study of girl down on her luck. It’s an odd choice to close such a lively record with such a sombre track but I guess it’s the only place it truly fit.

Hate For Sale is a short, sharp shot in the dark from one of rock music’s true pioneers and easily the best Pretenders record since the ‘90s.

Rating: A-

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