Pretenders – Hate for Sale

Pretenders’ frontwoman Chrissie Hynde helped start the band back in 1978 and has remained the band’s only original and consistent member throughout, even though most of the later catalog plays more like a Hynde solo project and less like a band. The latest record, Hate for Sale (which sounds uber-political) (it’s actually not), marks Hynde’s first studio album with The Pretenders’ latest lineup, seemingly trying to put the band before herself this time. Martin Chambers, who is the only other surviving member of the original Pretenders’ lineup, returns on drums. Hynde shares all songwriting credits with current lead guitarist James Walbourne, who joined the band in 2008.

The opening title track on the Stephen Street- (The Smiths, Morrissey, The Cranberries, Blur) produced record is a short ode to The Damned and it has all the punk trappings – simple drums by Chambers, punky down-picked bass (think Dee Dee Ramone) by Nick Wilkinson, and dirty blues guitar riffs by Walbourne. Hynde, who is now 68 years old, sneers, belts it out, and shines like she did some 40 years ago, not only on this opening song, but throughout most of the album – she’s still got it!

“Buzz,” about drug addiction, is sure to satisfy old-head fans, as the jangly guitars are very reminiscent of classics like “Kid” and “Back on the Chain Gang.”  “Turf Accountant Daddy,” “I Didn’t Know When to Stop,” and “Junkie Walk” are wonderful no-frills, dirty rock n’ roll while “I Didn’t Want to be This Lonely” is by far the album’s most stripped-downed, least distorted full-band track.

Elsewhere, the one track that sticks out like a sore thumb is the over-produced, super-polished “You Can’t Hurt a Fool.” It’s certainly a catchy, soulful ballad, but it sounds more like an adult-contemporary Chrissie Hynde solo project than anything else; it just doesn’t fit with the production of the other nasty rock ’n’ roll tracks. Sure, the closing track, “Crying in Public” is also a ballad, and it kind of sucks, but its production is more in-line with the other songs on the album. Also, one of the earlier tracks, “Lightning Man,” sounds like a ripoff of The Specials’ “Ghost Town.”

Having said all that, seven decent tracks out of ten is pretty outstanding for this day and age, especially coming from a band that had its heyday before I was even born. And once COVID-19 is over, I’m sure they’ll play some of these songs live, opening for some terrible “classic rock” band at your local amphitheater.

Hate for Sale