The Pretenders has announced the release of its long-awaited new album Alone and has released the first single titled “Holy Commotion” (below).
Alone was recorded with The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach at his Easy Eye Studio in Nashville and mixed by Tchad Blake (The Black Keys, Elvis Costello, Richard Thompson). The album was initially conceived as follow-up to legendary bandleader Chrissie Hynde’s acclaimed 2014 solo debut, Stockholm, but as its songs and sonics took shape, the collection soon revealed itself as the first all new Pretenders LP since 2008’s Break Up the Concrete.
Alone sees the one and only Hynde backed by a team of what she proudly calls “real people playing real instruments,” helmed by the multi-talented Auerbach and featuring Nashville session luminaries including bassist Dave Roe (Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Sturgill Simpson), pedal steel pioneer Russ Pahl (Blake Shelton, Don Williams, Luke Bryan), and guitarist Kenny Vaughan (Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives, Lana Del Rey, Ray LaMontagne), as well as keyboardist Leon Michels and drummer Richard Swift – both charter members of Auerbach’s adventurous garage rock combo The Arcs.
Hynde and Auerbach made for ideal foils, two idiosyncratic songwriter/musicians each possessing a deep knowledge and even deeper love of rock ‘n’ roll, both of course hailing from the City of Invention itself, Akron, Ohio. Though neither remain, Akron continues to inform both artists’ work, the Rubber City’s long history of progressivism and ingenuity, hard work and musical experimentation, are all very much present in their first full-length collaboration.
Alone indeed bears all the trademarks of the Pretenders’ legendary canon – raw and rollicking riffs, poignant balladry, taut hooks and indelible melodies, all in service of Hynde’s heartworn, ever-unsentimental songcraft. Nearly four decades on from The Pretenders’ epochal 1980 debut album, Hynde’s instantly identifiable voice is perhaps more emotional, more aggressive than at any other time in her career as all the vocals were recorded in 48 hours. That extra bit of edge only serves to add fire to new Pretenders classics like the brutally candid “I Hate Myself” and the defiant title track, a spiky rocker that sees Hynde extolling the joys and virtues of solitude.
“We were in the studio hanging out,” Hynde says, “and the guys were talking about their families and their wives and I said, ‘Well, I do everything alone. I go to the cinema alone. I go to restaurants alone. I live alone. I pretty much do everything on my own. I don’t mind.’ Dan says, ‘Write a song about it.’
“The more I thought about it,” she continues, “I thought, I’ve heard 1,000 songs in my life, they’re all about, I am so tired of being alone. I can’t live without you. Since you’ve left my world has fallen apart. When am I going to see you again? Marry me and be with me for the rest of my life. I have never heard anyone celebrate being alone in a song. I couldn’t think of one.”
Other highlights include “Roadie Man,” a softly sung paean to the hard working touring crew that has been kicking around Hynde’s unrecorded songbook for more than 25 years, the seductive “Let’s Get Lost” (co-written with songwriting superstars Amanda Ghost and Dave McCracken), and “Never Be Together,” featuring an inimitable contribution from legendary twang bar hero Duane Eddy.
“As soon as you hear one note you know who it is,” says Hynde. ‘I don’t get real excited about vintage guitars and stuff, but I do if someone else is playing them that brilliantly