The Pretenders Change Up Their Songwriting While Remaining as Authentic as Ever on 'Hate for Sale'
Published Jul 20, 2020Helming the legendary outfit for just over 40 years, Chrissie Hynde continues to wield the same unfettered punk-primed power that earmarked the Pretenders for success back in the late '70s. Hate for Sale represents a regrouping of sorts, seeing founding drummer Martin Chambers return to the studio, his first such involvement since Loose Screw in 2002, while Stephen Street, famed for his work with the Smiths and Blur, also steps forward to lend his well-honed production expertise. Songwriting credits are shared between Hynde and guitarist James Walbourne — a partnership that administers a sharp boost of adrenaline to a sequence of wired three-minute numbers.
Straying away from the rustic roots-rock of the Dan Auerbach-produced Alone, the Anglo-American band's eleventh full-length outing draws much of its appeal from a subtle genre-shifting dynamic, a nimble rather than heavy-handed approach that is applied, at its most robust, on tracks such as the dub-drenched "Lightning Man." Despite the album's relatively brief runtime, it manages to pack enough punch in revisiting the elasticity of the Pretenders' essential sound — tacitly applying new sonic elements without appearing frivolous or affected in the process. This is cemented with Hynde's iconic contralto timbre, reverberating, as it does, with ever-present brooding allure, brought to the fore on "I Didn't Know When to Stop" and the melodic "Maybe Love Is in NYC."
As certifiable members of rock royalty, the Pretenders hit all the right notes with this latest entry to their expansive catalogue. Hynde teases at the borders of the expected, without disrupting the core formula that has contributed to the band's longevity — unwaveringly authentic as ever. (BMG)