Pretenders are, as the title of their latest record suggests, Relentless. Three years on from the palatable Hate for Sale and the legendary rockers are back with another round of new tracks. There is no sense of creation for the sake of it with Pretenders. Chrissie Hynde and the gang are still thoroughly of the belief their work is relevant and powerful. Parts of Relentless truly are. But even in this period of post-heyday glamour is a sense of losing themselves. Pretenders attempt to document as much with Relentless, and crucial, moody opener Losing My Sense Of Taste. They may be shedding themselves of sense, but their sound and style remain firm, murky and intense. A vast improvement on their previous attempt at a twilight years release at the very least.
Within these personalised pieces of near-perfection, particularly in the earlier moments of Relentless, comes a look back at life only seasoned bands can offer. Suede did much the same on Autofiction, and the vocal presence and talent Hynde still hold presents much the same style. Slower guitars, moodier numbers and a wavy voice channelled under thick, patchy instrumentals. Fair to say the delicacy of Relentless here comes with the wizened feel to it all. The latter stages of once-booming careers. Introspection is inevitable at this stage and thankfully, Hynde is a great torchbearer for it. Your House Is On Fire comes with the essential, slow march and boom of drums. Vaguely reminiscent of Acid Klaus’ My Hats on Fire, the tender display and toned-down movements are essential.
This exploration into the unhurried momentum Pretenders now carry is a delicate one and a truly enjoyable experience. In the nicest way possible, Relentless has pockets of background noise thanks to its smooth production and gliding guitar work. Just Let It Go is both a deeply moving piece but also a track for the nights in which softer choices of song are needed when washing up is on the cards. Slick guitar solo work on Just Let It Go steers it to a higher place though, which so many of these Relentless tracks are missing. An enjoyable and slick selection which never mounts the courage to innovate. Do Pretenders need to at this stage? Not particularly, and their jumping on of the bandwagon for electric lushness is a welcome change of pace.
Wiry charms of Vainglorious herald the beginning of the end for Pretenders’ latest work, and the transition into string-heavy I Think About You Daily brings obvious connotations of lost love. Hynde and guitarist James Walbourne now write in isolation, and that surely has some impact on their work together. It sounds as though they are trying to connect with their ambitions of the past and the circling regret, which is now, slowly, starting to burn through them. A fierce final four tracks are enough to secure a quality release from Pretenders, whose dogged style lives on and offers a fruitful selection of new tracks. It may not be the heaviest or grandest of records, but the touching simplicity offered in the album’s latter half is as raw as it gets for the rock legends.