Pretenders Relentless review

Relentless review | Chrissie Hynde and co. reinstate their mettle with varied new Pretenders album

Pretenders demonstrated why they’ve endured for so long on one of their strongest, and definitely most varied, albums in some time. Read our Relentless review.


Pretenders have been a mainstay of the music scene since their formation in 1978, led by iconic frontwoman and guitarist Chrissie Hynde, who has featured on all 12 of their studio albums. The group’s sound has flitted between punk, new wave and several other genres, maintaining an audience and quality level few can match over such a period. 

2023 has proven to be a successful year for the group with a set at Glastonbury, joined by Johnny Marr and Dave Grohl. And off the back of that, Pretenders return with their latest record Relentless – their first since 2020’s Hate For Sale

It’s clear from the outset they can still rock with the best of them, with ‘Losing My Sense of Taste’ a rollicking way to start the album. At 71, Hynde’s vocals remain in fine fettle and while other acts might rest on their laurels, 45 years in Pretenders clearly still sound like they have something to prove. They also have plenty of fine additions to add to their live shows, with reflective lyrics and booming riffs.

Pretenders Relentless

It’s not all fuzz and noise, however. ‘The Copa’ is a slower, more subdued track, allowing Hynde’s vocals to take more of the weight. It’s a welcome change of pace, showing the depth there has always been to Pretender’s sound and Hynde’s prowess as a songwriter. James Walbourne is given a fine opportunity to show his chops as a guitarist with some sublime melodies wrapped around Hynde’s vocals. 

‘A Love’ wouldn’t be out of place on some of the band’s best-loved works like Pretenders, Pretenders II or Learning To Crawl; while Hynde’s voice may lack some of the strength of those records, this is a classic Pretenders track and shows why they have such a reputation and fan base. ‘The Promise of Love’ is a surprising left turn with a piano intro, gradually bringing in strings and additional elements. It’s an epic track that will reward multiple listens and shows the sense of ambition across this record. 

‘Merry Window’ is a grandiose track with some humorous lyrics as Hynde sings of being a divorcee but feeling like a widow. It’s a slow, almost grunge-like track that recalls the likes of Soundgarden or Queens of The Stone Age. The track builds into a thunderous outro that shows Pretenders are capable of heavier rock than they’re sometimes given credit for.

‘Let The Sun Come In’ is another shift in direction. As the title suggests it’s more up-tempo with a poppier edge to it. It contains some of the strongest vocals from Hynde on the record and is a further reminder of her ability to shift styles. ‘Look Away’ is a stripped-back acoustic track that’s one of the album’s more beautiful pieces, again underlining how unpredictable a record this is.

Chrissie Hynde

Photo: Nicky J Sims

The final stretch of the album is full of epic moments, as it builds in scale ‘Just Let It Go’ comes in over the five-minute mark, and after a slow build-up over the first two minutes expands into a different beast entirely full of sweeping guitar solos and choruses. ‘I Think About You Daily’ is a collaboration with Radiohead guitarist and composer Johnny Greenwood who contributes strings. It’s hauntingly beautiful, with a huge sense of scale – something completely different to Pretenders’ normal output but nonetheless successful and maybe something we might see more of in future.

Relentless is one of Pretenders’ strongest albums in some time; now in their sixth decade, they still have plenty of ambition and drive left. For all the riffs and rock elements we’ve come to appreciate over the years, it’s how well Chrissie Hynde’s vocals have held up that’s one of the record’s true strengths. Likewise, a string-led closing track may not be expected but it’s one of the album’s standouts. The departure from convention makes this a constantly exciting album and is a reminder of why Pretenders have stood the test of time.

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