After being delayed several months due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, The Pretenders 11th album Hate for Sale is finally out for our delectation. After the americana of their 2016 predecessor Alone and the jazz of Chrissie Hynde’s 2019 covers album Valve Bone Woe, Hate for Sale is a return to their classic sound – where frenetic punk and melodic pop sit side by side. Also it sees the return of drummer Martin Chambers, whose last record with them was Loose Screw back in 2002.
The title track opens the album with a bang; bristling with energy, it is an homage to The Damned and takes aim at ego driven narcissists with “money in the bank and coke in his pocket”. Miss Hynde’s pop sensibilities and talent for melody shines through in ‘The Buzz’, which rather than being driven by anger is intoxicated by love – it sounds timeless and is instantantly likeable. Their penchant for balladry is showcased in the soulful album highlight ‘You Can’t Hurt a Fool’, with Hynde’s silky smooth croon backed by soft RnB. Hate for Sale slaloms from punk to pop like this with ease, with a few detours on the way.
One such detour is ‘Lightning Man’, a relaxed ska number reminiscent of The Specials that is not outstanding but adds a nice bit of variety. ‘Turf Accountant Daddy’ is a snappy slice of rock and roll with a strong hook that would be right at home on their self titled debut. The stomping rhythm of ‘I Dont Know When to Stop’, about Hynde’s new found love of painting, is similar and suffers from the same brevity – it is good but it is over too soon. One track that will burrow its way into your head is ‘Junkie Walk’, a song with a fiery solo and riff that is as addictive as the subject matter.
Writing the album with guitarist James Walbourne, who has been with the band 12 years, lit a fire under Chrissie Hynde and resulted in a sparky, concise and foot tapping return to form – albeit a brief one as it only just clocks in at 30 minutes.