The Pretenders – Relentless (Parlophone)

The Pretenders, or more accurately, Chrissie Hynde, has just released Relentless, the “bands’” 12th studio album, one that finds the 72-year old rocker in fighting form.

Though you wouldn’t think so after hearing the album’s first track. Losing My Sense Of The PretendersTaste finds Hynde worrying about being “tired and old”, singing, “I don’t even care about rock & roll”. Meanwhile guitarist James Walbourne sounds like he’s phoning in his generic wash of distorted guitar, sounding strangely detached from Chrissie and the other players.

“I must be going through a metamorphosis”, cries Chrissie.

Oh, into what? A tired old rocker?

Fortunately not.

It turns out that Relentless’ first track is its worst track, with things improving exponentially from there.

The Pretenders are barely a band these days with original drummer Martin Chambers relegated to live shows. Kris Sonne is drumming here along with Carwyn Ellis on keys and Chris Hill and Dave Page on bass.

Walbourne co-writes all 12 tunes with Chrissie, just as he did with 2020’s Hate For Sale.

And they do sound like a band throughout most of the following 11 tracks.

Domestic Silence is an early highlight…Chrissie’s been hexed and James lets fly on the fretboard.

My favourite guitar moment comes during the second half of Merry Widow, where Walbourne goes psychedelic all over the track.

And Chrissie’s voice is as strong as ever, possibly better with age. There’s something there that really brings the listener in close.

Fans of classic Pretenders will want to hear Let The Sun Come In, while those looking for something a bit different may admire Your House Is On Fire with its e-bow guitar, mellotron and moog.

The songwriting is uniformly excellent, as one would expect.

And track 11, Vainglorious, bristles with old school punk energy.

If only Relentless ended there.

But like the first track, the last has also left me empty. Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood is on board for I Think About You Daily with a very ornate string arrangement that sounds very out of place on this record. It’s quite beautiful, but belongs somewhere else.

Oh well, we can be thankful for the 10 tracks that measure up and be happy that Chrissie Hynde is still rocking, just  not quite relentlessly.

Marty Duda