Chrissie Hynde spent 35 years leading the Pretenders and proclaiming that she’d never go solo. The ostensible big news here is that she has finally put out an album under her own name, but the reality is that nothing has changed. She’s still the lead singer of a rock group; she’s just not slapping the Pretenders label on it anymore. (It’s been 25 years, incidentally, since she released Packed, the first Pretenders album with no original Pretenders aside from her.)
On this latest outing, at any rate, Hynde’s brilliant phrasing and edgy attitude remain intact but the music and lyrics are uneven. “You or No One,” for example, deals in clichés; and musically, it seems more like a bid for radio airplay than anything else. The overproduced “You're the One,” meanwhile, feels like filler.
But Stockholm contains enough gems to put it on the buy list of any serious Hynde/Pretenders fan. “Dark Sunglasses” takes a potent shot at someone who has sold out—gone from living in a van to life in the ruling classes, apparently by sleeping with a woman who’s a member. Then there’s “Down the Wrong Way,” which features the unmistakable sound of Neil Young’s guitar, a terrific match for Hynde’s arresting vocals. They should work together more often.
The album saves its strongest punch for last. The deftly written “Adding the Blue,” a melancholy mid-tempo number about a lost love, feels like a peek into a private moment of devastation. It’s an emotionally delivered demonstration of why Hynde remains vital at age 62, and of why we started listening to her in the first place.