Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Renewal of Commitment

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Renewal of Commitment

Article excerpt

IF YOU SAW the Pretenders on Saturday Night Live a few weeks ago, you saw a renewal of commitment to a band that has not functioned as such for more than 10 years.

Chrissie Hynde, singer, songwriter and rhythm guitarist, has kept the Pretenders' name alive by leading a series of interchangeable session musicians; the result has been a couple of forgettable albums.

The band's renewal is not just the return of drummer Martin Chambers, the only other surviving member of the original lineup that recorded "Pretenders" and "Pretenders II," albums that sound better and better as the years go on.

His constantly inventive propulsion did contribute a lot to the band's performance, especially on the first song, "Night in My Veins." But this was clearly the sound of five people (four official band members and a keyboardist; apparently, like the Rolling Stones, the Pretenders can't include any musicians who aren't guitarists or drummers) putting together their individual abilities and achieving something grand. This was the sound of rock 'n' roll at its most invigorating.

Surprisingly, though the group's new album, "Last of the Independents," is being trumpted as a recording by this band, it turns out to be another collection of mix-and-match musicians. But no matter whom Hynde and her latest lead-guitar star, Adam Seymour, choose to work with, the result is a satisfyingly consistent approach to some of the finest songs of her career.

Maybe even when she's seemingly in a highly collaborative situation, Hynde is still just pretending; the Pretenders are really whatever Chrissie Hynde wants them to be.

Hynde has one of the most expressive sets of pipes in all of rock. She can inhabit a delicate melody, spit out venomous anger and do just about everything in between. The songs on this album, even when they are flat-out rockers, tend to have exquisitely crafted tunes; the arrangements seem to have been created to serve them, rather than the other way around.

Take "Hollywood Perfume," which opens the album with a bang. The first couple of times I played it, all I noticed was the insistent, compulsive throb of the rhythm. Everything seemed committed to creating a darkly sexual feeling. …

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