DVD Review: Alone with Chrissie Hynde, Plus Albums by Tomislav Goluban and Davis Kathriner

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Chrissie Hynde has opened up a lot about her offstage life in recent years. In 2015, she delivered an autobiography, Reckless: My Life as a Pretender. And now we have Alone with Chrissie Hynde, a DVD of an hour-and-a-half BBC documentary whose title echoes that of her band’s latest album

The show includes many recent and vintage performance and recording-studio clips, some of them fantastic. (Don’t miss a high-octane “Thumbelina,” performed in a North London pub with a small group called Mother’s Little Helper.) But most of these clips deliver only segments of songs; in the bulk of the footage, Hynde is talking, not performing. We see her in New York, in her London and Paris apartments, shopping for clothes, and visiting Akron, Ohio, where she strolls through a cemetery and points out her childhood home and the shopping center where she once held jobs she hated. She discusses her music, shows off her paintings, and offers her thoughts about life and being constantly on the road. At George Harrison’s Bhaktivedanta Manor Hare Krishna Tempe, she milks a cow.

This is the first I’ve seen of Hynde offstage, and I was surprised at how unsurprised I was by the personality she displays: based on her music, this is pretty much exactly how I’d expected her to be—variously rebellious, sarcastic, quirky, romantic, moody, feisty, and cynical. She says she doesn’t look forward to sleeping in her own bed when a tour ends; she prefers hotels. And she loves performing not because of the connection with the audience but because when she’s onstage, it’s the only time she really feels she knows what she’s doing. Offstage, she tells Sandra Bernhard, “I spend all my time alone…It’s my choice; I like it.”

Because the BBC program is a talk-heavy documentary and not a concert, you’ll probably want to see it only once; but if you’re a fan, you’ll be glad you did. And you’ll enjoy the DVD’s major bonus feature, which you most likely will want to watch more than once: an 18-song, approximately 90-minute Cologne, Germany concert from July 1981, featuring Hynde with the original Pretenders: drummer Martin Chambers, who has worked with her on and off ever since; guitarist James Honeyman-Scott, whose cocaine-related death occurred less than a year after this concert; and bassist Pete Farndon, who lost his life due to a heroin overdose about 10 months after Honeymoon-Scott passed away.

Their set includes many classic songs that appeared on the first two Pretenders LPs, among them “The Wait,” “The Adultress,” “Message of Love,” “Talk of the Town,” “Kid,” “Precious,” “Mystery Achievement,” and “Stop Your Sobbing.” This is a nearly 40-year-old recording, so don’t expect widescreen or surround sound. Do expect some fireworks, though: Hynde continues to make great music today, but her early work with the original Pretenders had a uniquely raw and powerful energy that imbues this vintage concert.

BRIEFLY NOTED

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Tomislav Goluban featuring Toni Staresinic, Velvet Space LoveIf you organize your music by genre, you’re going to have a hard time deciding where to place this ethereal set from a pair of Croatian instrumentalists. It’s certainly spacey—some of it could work as an alternative soundtrack for a movie like 2001—and I’d be tempted to call it new age or electronic if it weren’t for Goluban’s prominent bluesy harmonica. And then there are the songs where a brass section kicks in and the music sounds like jazz. At any rate, this pensive collection—nearly all of it written by Goluban and pianist Staresinic—is worth a listen. 

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Davis Kathriner, Losing Habits. This folk-rooted release from guitarist Ben Davis and drummer/lead vocalist Danny Kathriner doesn’t break any new stylistic ground, but it’s loaded with strong melodies and harmony vocals and well-crafted lyrics, many of which describe the pleasures and pains of romantic relationships. Support comes from Lauren Balthrop (lead vocal on “Same for You”) and Laura Cantrell (lead vocal on “Breakfast Table,” which is a high point), as well as about a half dozen other players who add cello, piano, organ, pedal steel, and more. Davis and Kathriner—working together here for the first time since they led a band called Wagon about a decade ago—wrote all the songs (with help from Cantrell on “Breakfast Table”).

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Jeff Burger (byjeffburger.com), a longtime magazine editor, has written about music, politics, and popular culture for more than 75 periodicals. His books include Dylan on Dylan: Interviews and Encounters, Lennon on Lennon: Conversations with John Lennon, Springsteen on Springsteen: Interviews, Speeches…

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