Pretenders – Relentless (2023)

Posted by Green on September 13, 2023
in rock

320 | FLAC

With 2020’s Hate for Sale, Chrissie Hynde steered the Pretenders back into classic band mode. Its lean, no-nonsense production and back-to-basics arrangements (two guitars, bass, drums) suited material which was surprisingly vigorous. Many of those same traits can be found on Relentless, another robust late-career set that exceeds expectations. While founding drummer Martin Chambers is absent here, Hynde’s latter-day foil, guitarist James Walbourne, resumes his role as co-writer, sideman, and sonic sculptor. Rounding out this edition of the Pretenders is drummer Kris Sonne, bassists Chris Hill and Dave Page, and keyboardist/guitarist Carwyn Ellis. Veteran Welsh producer David Wrench mans the boards. While the rugged rock & roll thump that characterized their previous release remains in effect on cuts like “Vainglorious” and the rousing standout “Let the Sun Come In,” the whole of Relentless is more varied. The midtempo “A Love” is a vintage Hynde jangle pop gem with a memorable melody and the kind of idiosyncratic vocal timing that has always been one of her superpowers. “Merry Widow” is a spacious, slow-burning rocker that veers into U.K. folk-rock territory, with Walbourne delivering a wild solo reminiscent of early Richard Thompson who, incidentally, is his father-in-law. The album’s more subdued second half gets a little sleepy with introspective acoustic-based songs, the best of which is the lyrically rich and Americana-tinged “Just Let It Go.” Closing out the set is perhaps its least indicative track. Adorned with a celestial string arrangement from Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, “I Think About You Daily” is an aching six-minute piano ballad that, while lovely, feels like it belongs on a different album. Then again, the Pretenders and Chrissie Hynde have more or less been interchangeable titles since the late ’80s; at this point, a Pretenders album is whatever she says it is and Relentless is a good one.

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