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The Pretenders return revamped on Relentless


Release date: 01 September 2023
The Pretenders Relentless cover
31 August 2023, 09:00 Written by Adele Julia

“I must be going through a metamorphosis”, croons Chrissie Hynde in the opening seconds of Relentless.

It seems change is in the air, as Hynde not only seems transformed but the band itself, now undergoing a brand-new innovative twist on their classic sound. The The Pretenders haven’t really been a ‘band’ for about forty years, so evidently the group is no stranger to such changes, and although the constant departures and return of band members may be debilitating for some, Hynde remains the constant.

Now entering her early seventies, Hynde sounds like she’s never left her glory days, and to assume anything less would be a disservice. Her voice is rich with age, thick with wisdom, perfect for listlessly reminiscing about smoky hotel rooms and other rockstar cliches of “her prime”. On the gothic organ-driven "The Promise of Love", this nostalgia is bittersweet; on "I Think About You Daily" she’s downright mournful. The latter is a collaboration between Hynde and Jonny Greenwood – a pairing we never knew we needed until now. With Greenwood’s compositions for Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread as inspiration, he fortifies Hynde’s words with string arrangements that only portend her melancholy.

Other tracks demonstrate newfound innovations in sound for the band, particularly on the moody "Merry Widow". Sounding like a long-lost B-Side from Patti Smith’s Wave or PJ Harvey’s Dry – the folk and grunge sentiments of both intertwine to tell the tale of a divorcee, newly liberated in the afterglow of a ruined marriage.

Through looking back at her career, Hynde’s past is what appears to lie at the album’s centrefold. By calling into question the identity of 'musician' itself, Hynde also inspects the identity that she has worn since the band’s genesis in 1978; “It’s the life of the artist. You never retire. You become relentless”, she explains. These ideas appear fully realised on the lead single "Let the Sun Come In", as she sings; “To live forever that’s the plan / the longest living mortal man”, whilst bluesy riffs populate the chorus.

And though time and age threaten to push one towards a reluctant retirement, it’s clear Hynde’s not giving in any time soon. Furthermore, as Relentless only adds to their great legacy, perhaps Hynde’s prime isn't as far behind as she once believed, but lingers just over the near horizon.

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