Essential New Music: Pretenders’ “Alone”


On the surface, the idea sounds ill-advised: Chrissie Hynde—one of rock’s greatest voices, one of its most raw lyricists, most developed composers and as solid a rhythm guitarist as anyone not named Keith Richards—records a Pretenders album in Nashville, with Music City cats. Then “Alone Song,” with its typically contrarian Hynde lyric (“I like being alone!”), raunches into view with a nasty garage-punk riff. There’s no mistaking who’s in charge.

Working with the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach producing and guitaring likely helps—something about Akron, Ohio, natives collaborating and all that. But even when a steel guitar appears, it’s on a twangy soul track, “Roadie Man.” “Gotta Wait,” meantime, stomps as hard as the first LP’s “Mystery Achievement.” And time has not eroded the heartbreaking catch in Hynde’s voice, managing both toughness and vulnerability. Alone’s as good a Pretenders record as has been made.

—Tim Stegall