Music » CD Reviews

The Pretenders

Pirate Radio (Warner/Rhino/Sire)


Chrissie Hynde's mesmerizing androgyny shines through on this astutely chosen four-CD, one-DVD boxed set. Besides the hits that made her and her mutable band of British boys a hard-rock household word, Pirate Radio features 15 previously unreleased tracks, including a super-punky demo of "Precious," a rough original, "Tequila" (which suggests that the Pretenders are due for a country album), covers of Merrilee Rush's "Angel of the Morning" and Radiohead's "Creep," and startlingly aggressive live tracks from as recently as 2003.

Since the first singles ("Kid," "Brass in Pocket," "Stop Your Sobbing"), Hynde has delivered aggressively feminist music. Her slashing rhythm guitar and broad vibrato define the Pretenders, no matter the genre. She's pointed, even when she's tender; the early, previously unreleased rocker "Watching the Clothes" is fundamentally gentle, and the rueful "My City Was Gone" is as much a love song to dying cities as Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" was in the more innocent '60s.

Frequent lineup changes aside (Martin Chambers, second only to the Stones' Charlie Watts in his blend of swing and authority, remains her closest associate), the band's consistent purpose, originality, and intelligence come through beautifully, from "Talk of the Town" to such overlooked late-career tracks as "Complex Person." Drawing evenly from across Hynde's career, the set includes comprehensive notes and some track-by-track comments by Hynde. The DVD spans 19 songs, with performances going back as far as 1979.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.