Wednesday, 17 October 2018

The Pretenders - Get Close (1986)


  

Released October 1986

The Pretenders went through more trauma and changes in a few years than many bands go through in a lifetime. Chrissie Hynde, of course, was the one constant. It was her band. Despite losing two talented guitarists from the line-up that recorded their first two new wave/rock albums, she recovered, hired some more gunslingers and produced an excellent album in “Learning To Crawl” in 1984. By 1986, she was without even loyal old drummer Martin Chambers for this album, who she fired after his drumming deteriorated, and had a new guitarist in Robbie McIntosh and various session men like bassist Bruce Thomas from Elvis Costello’s Attractions. She had grown up by now and some of the material was mellower, more drawn from the voice of experience, but it was still very much her unique sound. The album is just slghtly blighted, as all mid-eighties albums were, by contemporary musical trends - basically synthesisers all over the place. They do appear on quite a few of the tracks, but the album is still guitar-driven and also runs on proper rock sounds, thank goodness. It was probably the last album from The Pretenders as a relevant band, to be honest, though. Anything produced after this would have a tinge of nostalgia about it.

Anyway, to the music. “My Baby” has an acoustic beginning but soon merges into a classic Pretenders slowed down rock groove. Full of drums and bass and, thankfully, few eighties stylings, despite some ubiguitous synthesisers in the background eventually. At least the drums are “proper” drums. There is a classic Pretenders guitar riff near the end too. “When I Change My Life” has a Byrds-style jangly riff and a wistful, floaty vocal from Hynde. It has a nice subtle, melodic bassy feel to it.

“Light Of The Moon” is a mid-paced, slow riffy number with more genuine drums and a nice laid-back but solid feel to it. “Dance!’ sees the first of the funky tracks that would characterise this album. It is a real departure from the band’s trademark new-wavey sound. To be honest, it is refreshing to hear a change in their sound. I love this track. There is some great guitar on it too.

“Tradition Of Love” is another slow burner, with some distinct innovative Eastern tones to its vocal inflections, while “Don’t Get Me Wrong” was a big hit single. It is lively, melodic and catchy. "I Remember You" has slight echoes of earlier Pretenders in places, but has a gentle Motown/reggae style beat and a sensual vocal.

As mentioned earlier, funkiness was a feature of this album compared to the three previous ones. “How Much Did You Get For Your Soul?” is an insistent, funky, clavinet and guitar-driven number that sounds great and shows the group diversifying somewhat. Eighties synthesisers unfortunately make an appearance, but that was, as I said earlier, a sign of the times. Hip/hop sampling vocals are in there, as if it were a Style Council track, along with some Talking Heads-style guitar. "Chill Factor" is  a solid, organ and drum driven more archetypal Pretenders song, with hints of Elvis Costello & The Attractions.

“Hymn To Her” is a beautiful, uplifting, gently anthemic (as the title suggests) hymnal song. For me, it has influences from Dylan’s “Forever Young” (a song the group covered). Something about the phrasing, the grandiose rise at the end of the verses, the majesty of it. It is a truly great track. It contains one of Chrissie Hynde’s best ever vocals. Great stuff. Jimi Hendrix's "Room Full Of Mirrors" is covered funkily and convincingly.

A thing that hits you about this album is just how much better the sound quality is compared to, say, the muffled mess that was "Pretenders II”. It really is a most underrated album.

B-

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