I avoided the Pretenders for so long for two reasons: when I was young, nothing about their hits appealed to me – nothing really grabbed me and told me I needed to listen to their records – but also Hynde did an interview for a documentary I watched about the New York Dolls which I have basically never forgiven her for, when she slagged my (then) favourite genre.
But I’ve come to realize that Hynde is a pretty good songwriter: she has a great sense of melody and, though I don’t always love her lyrics, I certainly appreciate her perspective. The older I get the more I’m valuing – or trying to value – less mainstream voices. The fact that Hynde was able to carve out a niche for her songs – especially some of these songs – is pretty damn impressive. (It did take her a while, but that’s no fault of hers.)
My issue with the band as a whole, though, is that they’re not very interesting. The more I’ve gotten to know them the more I’ve found that they are very much one of those bands that lives and dies on the strength of their primary songwriter’s songs – if it’s a good set, the record is good, if it’s a weaker set, the record is less good. And that’s because this is a band that plays straightforward rock and roll clothed in (the barest suggestion of) new wave garb. As I say about all phony new wave bands: compare this to the genuine article and you will wonder how someone ever described this record as new wave.
But that’s on the critics, not on this band. And this band is good at what they do, even if they are not very original. Muscular pop rock without too much in the way of ’80s production works well (for me) in any era.
And so we’re left with Hynde’s songs. To the best of my very limited knowledge, this is her best set.
PS: This is not what punk music sounds like, either. For people who think this music is new wave, I suggest listening to the following:
- Talking Heads before 1980
- Pere Ubu
And for people who think this music is punk, I suggest listening to the following:
- The Clash
- The Damned
- The Sex Pistols
- Or any other first wave British punk band except the Jam.