Not having released an album since 2008, or performed since 2012, and with Chrissie Hynde going solo with 2014’s, Stockholm, The Pretenders had entered the limbo of an unplanned hiatus; not broken up and not retired, just resting their eyes if you will. This status quo very nearly continued as Hynde entered the Nashville studio of Dan Auerbach – the guitarist and vocalist for blues-rockers, The Black Keys – to begin work on a second solo record but, somewhere along the way, it was felt that the songs were taking on as distinctly Pretenders vibe. And so, work started on The Pretenders’ 10th studio album, Alone.
Anyone picking up Alone expecting classic Pretenders may be somewhat disappointed, which is not to say that Alone in any way lacks for quality. With Auerbach taking the helm as producer, and a fine collection of musicians applying themselves in the studio, there’s certainly not a bum-note to be heard but Alone bears far more resemblance to the power-pop of Hynde’s solo work than The Pretenders’ sound of yore. Hynde’s voice has definitely changed over the years, taking on the deeper timbre of age, but there is also a satisfying roughness at the edges added to her vocals, which lends an earnestness to the delivery.
A vintage crunch permeates the titular Alone, which opens the album strongly, and compliments the punchy rhythm of Gotta Wait whilst contrasting with the keyboard of Leon Michels. Alone’s narrative of assertive independence is refreshing, with added poignancy courtesy of the narrator ending up reflecting over an acquaintances tombstone. Given Auerbach’s musical influences, the blue’s progression that underlies Roadie Man’s main-riff isn’t surprising, while the lyrics of being in love with a man that is constantly on the move feels like a minor insight into Hynde’s younger years, and Chord Lord blends blues-rock with a strong dose of pop sensibility.
Blue Eyed Sky and The Man You Are prove to be especially mellow songs, with the latter having an air of dream-pop about it, though Hynde’s unpretentious vocals feel particularly weak on these tracks. As the album draws near the end, the gritty guitar tones that feature at the start of the record are absent, which is a shame as I Hate Myself could use a little aural coarseness, but this omission is forgiven and forgotten as Death Is Not Enough closes Alone by expertly progressing from a spacious to a dense composition. Unlikely to be remembered as The Pretenders’ best album, Alone is nevertheless a solid record.