From the trifling pop of "Don't Get Me Wrong" to the vaguely Caribbean "I Remember You," through the Bad Company-goes-to-India modalities of "Tradition of Love" and the several lumpy funk numbers, Get Close doesn't sound like a Pretenders album. And, arguably, it isn't.
The Pretenders were always very much a band, a unit with a lean drive that rooted and braced Chrissie Hynde's curt songs. Perhaps the most remarkable achievement about Leaming to Crawl, the band's last LP, was the way Hynde pulled that sound together even after... Read More
two of the original band members died from drug-related causes. During the sessions for Get Close
, Hynde dismissed that band, except for guitarist Robbie McIntosh, and utilized a squad of more illustrious musicians, whose credits include David Bowie, Talking Heads, Pete Townshend and Bryan Adams. And after years of Chris Thomas's hard, true production, she hired Bob Clearmountain and Jimmy Iovine, the team behind Simple Minds' Once upon a Time.
The result is a scattershot studio extravaganza that can't camouflage the album's considerable weaknesses.
As on The Pretenders II, the group's other spotty LP, Hynde is audibly uncomfortable with her pop-star image. On the album-opening "My Baby," she frets over her inadequacies ("I'm a peasant/Dressed as a princess") and compares her songs unfavorably with the "natural beauty" and "poetry" of a dancing lover, as crowd applause emphasizes the song's literalness. In "Dance!" a shrill piece of psychedelic funk she repeats her uneasiness by equating political demagogy and musical heroism.
This concern with the worthiness of pop stars narrows into "How Much Did You Get for Your Soul?" a thinly veiled rant that accuses Michael Jackson of selling out ("Millions of kids are looking at you/You say 'Let them drink soda pop'") and condemns black bourgeoisification. Hynde's apparent allegation that Jackson's compromise of black tradition which she stereotypes as "the gospel" disqualifies him as a role model is smug and hypocritical; Jackson co-wrote "We Are the World," while Hynde's most recent advocacy has been for the decriminalization of heroin. Furthermore, the recycled Bowieisms of "Light of the Moon" and the ineptness of "How Much ..." and "Dance!" reveal that she arrogantly overestimates the accessibility of soul, which requires more than just a hired black rhythm section.
This failed musical imperialism undermines Hynde's political theses just as surely as the liner-note proclamation that the album "was made without cruelty to animals" assumes that Hynde's vegetarianism doesn't contradict her fondness for leather apparel. The two self-critical songs are the most honest on the album, not only because Hynde's politics are seriously muddled but also because she's more eloquent about her own problems than about someone else's. The sympathy for abandoned mothers in "Chill Factor" is never m