Friday, May 14, 1999 Published at 16:05 GMT 17:05 UK
Entertainment: New Music Releases
CD Review: Pretenders
Pretenders: Viva El Amor! (WEA)
By the BBC's Chris Charles
After years of enduring second-rate Chrissie Hynde mimics, it's a pleasure to be reunited with the real thing.
The Pretenders are back with their first album of new material for five years and it's like they've never been away.
That's probably because they don't sound any different - in fact much of Viva El Amor! could be mistaken for a re-working of their old stuff, which provides a reassuring comfort blanket for all us, er, twentysomethings.
Yawning generation gap
Hynde sums up the yawning generation gap perfectly on Popstar. "Oh, they don't make 'em like they used to," she groans, adding: "I can see just where she's heading, she's as predictable as Armageddon.."
It's unclear just why the Pretenders decided to go back in the studio, but unlike most comeback albums, which prove to be as anti-climatic as the millennium surely will, this has class stamped right the way through it.
OK, so there's no Back On The Chain Gang or I Go To Sleep, but there's no quick-fix sell-out either, with Hynde refusing to compromise any of her anger and emotion for the sake of a few quid.
Essence of the glory days
Who's Who and Nails On The Road could have been written back in '78 and while the latter tends to ramble on a little too long, the essence of the glory days is there for all to hear.
But it's the powerful Dragway 42 that stands out as the track of the album, with its Byrds-like guitars and a vocal track seemingly laid down during a stormy night on Dartmoor.
It's only as the album draws to a close that low-ballers like the cheesy Rabo De Nube (a song about hope sung in Spanish, apparently) are thrown in, but for the most part the musical and lyrical standard is high - which makes it all the more surprising that the excellent single Human ("You were the best thing I should never have seen") did not do better.
And perhaps it's just as well. If all the old stagers came out of the woodwork and made records as good as this, the emerging talent wouldn't get a look in and the music industry's youth policy would end up looking like Chelsea football club's.
Young Pretenders be warned. Imitations are only tolerated when you can't get hold of the real thing.