• U.S.

MUSIC: Real Thing

2 minute read
David E. Thigpen

As a woman rocker leading an otherwise all-male band, Chrissie Hynde has long been one of pop music’s most fascinating and contradictory figures. Fond of skintight jeans, torn T shirts and excessive amounts of black eye shadow, she combines a punkish disdain for the world with an expressive, let’s-get-it-on sexuality. As the songwriter and singer of the Pretenders, she manages to create buoyant, invigorating rock ‘n’ roll by weaving pop music’s tunefulness with punk’s aggressive energy. With pulsing, loping guitar work and a ragged- edged style that retains the sound of a great garage band, the Pretenders’ early records produced an array of hits like Precious and Talk of the Town.

Last of the Independents, the Pretenders’ first new album in four years, has a relaxed, familiar feel. With jangling guitars, stomping drums and Hynde’s voice — soft one moment, steely the next — it is assured, bare-knuckle rock ‘n’ roll. Part of the credit goes to the sturdy rhythm work of returning drummer Martin Chambers, an original Pretender who left the band in 1986 (the other two charter bandmates, James Honeyman Scott and Pete Farndon, died of drug overdoses in 1982 and 1983).

Hynde is 43 now, and although her youthful rebellion seems tamed, it hasn’t quite been vanquished. “Bring on the revolution/ I want to die for something,” she sings on Revolution. Night in My Veins celebrates quickie sex. But the album’s most intensely felt moment comes on I’m a Mother (Hynde’s two daughters are 11 and 9), a feisty rebuttal to soft images of motherhood: “I understand blood/ I understand pain/ There can be no life without it,” she sings. Hynde is living proof that even for punks, life doesn’t have to end at 21.

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