2016’s Alone was the first new work to bear the Pretenders name in almost a decade. And as an album title, Alone worked just fine, since the set saw Chrissie Hynde, one of music’s original independent women, resurrecting the band brand without any other members of the group she’s fronted since the late 1970s.
Far from being a solo affair, Alone marked a new collaborative relationship with fellow Ohio native Dan Auerbach, who contemporises Hynde’s brass-knuckled rock and roll with a spry sprinkling of overt musical nods toward Spector-ized ’60s power pop, soul and mid-century blues, overlaid with a dash of dance-y modernity and even the odd Duane Eddy rockabilly cameo.
The loose concept sees Chrissie examines both the empowerment and the want associated with being by yourself, with songs such as the self-loathing laundry list of I Hate Myself and the Nashville pedal steel ballad, Let’s Get Lost, exploring the other side of a loner’s existence, delicately laying out the emotional costs.
And it’s the latter that pricked up the ‘secret ears’ of Pet Shop Boys frontman and fellow ex-music journalist, Neil Tennant, who, after catching a Pretenders gig in Austin, Texas last Hallowe’en (PSB were playing the same city the following night), told Hynde the yearning, ethereal beauty of Let’s Get Lost had to be a single. “Well, why don’t you work on it with me then?” was the logical response.
This has spooky echoes of a similar situation with another rock stalwart 21 years previously, when Tennant told David Bowie backstage at Wembley Arena he couldn’t understand why his Hallo Spaceboy (from 1995’s Brian Eno-produced opus, Outside) hadn’t been a single, and was promptly invited to remix it. Spaceboy became an impromptu vocal duet and such a radical re-production that almost saw Bowie guesting on his own record.
No such drastic measures here, as Neil’s additional vocals on the single version of Let’s Get Lost add a delicious delicacy, complimenting Chrissie’s and blending surprisingly well; so much so that, at times, it’s not immediately obviously who’s singing what.
They had time to gel though. The collaboration actually continues a working relationship that started when Chrissie performed ‘Four Songs In A Minor’ with Pet Shop Boys and the BBC Concert Orchestra at their Proms show at London’s Royal Albert Hall in 2014, which you can view here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mxyqt_wRLHU
Both acts return to the Albert Hall next month for one-off shows. PSB perform in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust on April 2, joined by Johnny Marr, Sylvia Mason-James and the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, while the Pretenders are there on April 10.