A false start, a wonky note, then the right one and off we go with The Pretenders sounding pretty much like they always did, which is no bad thing. My old colleague Allan Jones recalled in his review of Hate For Sale that Chrissie Hynde once stated that all subsequent line-ups of The Pretenders following the all too brief first incarnation have been tribute bands to that original group, and – shrewd cookie that she is – she’s not wrong. Most of the songs on this new album do sound like the old Pretenders in one way or another, and one in particular is so similar to ‘Kid’ that if anyone else had recorded it I’m sure Chrissie would have been on the phone to her lawyer.
On the cover they look like a gang you’d cross the road to avoid, all sneers and black leather, a bit angry. And since no album featuring Chrissie Hynde would be complete without an angry song, on Hate For Sale she wastes no time in putting the boot in. It comes immediately after that false start, the title track, the first word we hear is ‘hate’ and Chrissie leads her gang into a careering downhill charge against the kind of men who’d support POTUS and would certainly have her door slammed their faces if ever they were darken it. It’s a fine upbeat start which ends abruptly before we reach ‘The Buzz, which, with its descending bass lines, occasionally replicated by a twangy Fender lead that brings to mind Jimmy of Pretenders Mark I, is almost – but not quite – as lovely as the song it so resembles. The first few notes of the solo are so reminiscent of that wondrous solo in ‘Kid’ that I had to play ‘Kid’ again to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. I wasn’t.
‘Lightning Man’ has a whiff of blue beat about it, and sharp guitar lines that, with added tremolo, reminded me a bit of Hank Marvin’s clean Echoplex sound. ‘Turf Accountant Daddy’ hints at Bowie’s ‘Jean Genie’ in its basic riff, a song that might or might not be a warning against the perils of gambling, and things slow down for ‘You Can’t Hurt A Fool’, a power ballad that responds to the female condition. ‘I Didn’t Know When To Stop’ shudders along in a fitful way and at the close manages to fit in the same two chords that introduce ‘You Really Got Me’ by The Kinks, which suggests Chrissie still can’t wash that man out of her hair.
On reflection ‘Maybe Love Is In NYC’ is my pick of the album, a real throwback to the early Pretenders sound with its shining, sustained guitar, a feast of descending arpeggios that resolve on a top note, and a solo to lift the heartstrings. I think it’s a tribute to The Big Apple. A contrastingly distorted guitar heralds ‘Junkie Walk’, another jittery, unmelodic song, that stamps out a warning not to indulge in Class A. ‘Didn’t Want To Be This Lonely’ is a Bo Diddley variation and the album closes with ‘Crying In Public’, a slow, piano-led weepie, complete with strings, that draws further attention to the woes that inflict jilted women.
Finally, it needs to be said that, enjoyable as it is, Hate For Sale is pretty short for a CD; ten songs, the longest of which is 3.50, the shortest 2.30. It clocks in at only just over 31 minutes.