Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Chrissie Hynde

A really good album  by an icon    

    Chrissie Hynde has been one of the coolest performers in popular music for over three decades.  She possesses an intriguing alto voice that wrings a subtle, supple sound from a limited range.  It can also forcibly attack such as on The
Pretenders’ classic “Middle of the Road” or on “Dark Sunglasses” from her latest album Stockholm.  I’ve been listening to this since it was first released in June and I’ve wanted to review it for the Hynde mixture of tough compassion. 

     Although it’s billed as her first solo album, the line-up for The Pretenders changed so much that I think many fans thought of it as Hynde and her back-up band.  She always worked with professionals that got the job done with a minimum of fuss (on disc at least).  There wasn’t the psychological and musical sturm und drang of The Rolling Stones, The Who, or The Kinks (though Hynde survived a tumultuous relationship with Ray Davies).  However, in style and substance, The Pretenders always seemed like the inheritors of the first British Invasion, rather than their contemporaries The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Buzzcocks, or The English Beat.  Out of the studio, a number of her band-mates literally bit the dust and she was unfairly singled out for blame.

     Stockholm feels gentler than The Pretenders classics by emphasizing strings over guitars, though the drums still resound.  On Fidelity (2010), her collaboration with J.P. Jones, Hynde sounded relaxed and bemused that she was involved so successfully with an artist half her age.  Stockholm refers to the serene capital of a self-possessed nation or even a hostage who over-identifies with the captor.  The themes of Stockholm, however, reverberate with the impermanence of love and life, and the possibility of hope.  It’s a really good album by an original artist, who still looks incredible.

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