|Los Angeles Times November 2, 1986
Chrissie: Tough, Tender
by Kristine McKenna
Chrissie Hynde is Billie Holiday, Bacharach & David and the Shangri-Las rolled up into one fantastic package.
A gifted writer whose songs are consistently innovative, she's easily the sexiest white female pop singer currently
working the boards.
Her range, inventive phrasing and the way she personalizes her songs with peculiar flourishes — a giggle, a growl
— is on par with the great vocal stylists of popular music. The most endearing thing about Hynde, however, is the
way she comes on like a tough street-corner chick, then reveals herself in her songs to be just another sentimental
dreamer strung out on love.
Get Close finds Hynde backed by a new crop of musicians, but with every personnel change it becomes increasingly
evident that it doesn't much matter who plays behind her, because Hynde is the Pretenders. Conspicuously absent
from the record is Hynde's husband Jim Kerr, leader of Scottish group the Simple Minds; the Kerrs are to be commended
for keeping their marriage out of their art.
When Hynde gets political, as she has a tendency to do, her music goes slightly strident and self-righteous. The
weak links in this otherwise excellent album are "Dance," a contemptuous indictment of politicians (it
hardly bears repeating that politicians are corrupt), and "How Much Did You Get for Your Soul," a song
reminiscent of David Bowie's "Fame."
The lyric "millions of kids are looking at you/You say 'Let them drink soda pop'" suggests that "Soul"
was written with Michael Jackson in mind. Though Jackson's weird career moves are a worthy subject for examination,
this tune pales next to the five rapturously romantic love songs that compose the core of the album.
The best of the lot, "Tradition of Love," is a deliriously sensual track featuring one of the most beautifully
subtle vocals of Hynde's career. Completing the LP is a version of Jimi Hendrix's "Room Full of Mirrors."
It's a big job stepping into Hendrix's shoes but Hynde gets away with it; though she's happily married and a mommy
to boot, she's still tough and still has one foot in the street.
|The Daily O'Collegian (Oklahoma State University) November 19, 1986
Pretenders Expand Musically, Produce Softer Sound
by Heyde Class
The Pretenders have definitely had their share of knocks, bumps and bruises. But it appears the worst is over and
they recently went back into the studio and recorded Get Close.
The Pretenders released their self-titled debut LP in 1979. Chrissie Hynde, singer/songwriter and rhythm guitarist
was the focal point of the band, with its rough-and-tumble image adding extra appeal to its distinctive sound.
While things appeared to be going well, problems left on the backburner for too long finally hit home and Peter
Farndon was fired after the completion of their first U.S. tour; and two days later, James Honeyman-Scott died.
But all the trauma and upheavel didn't stop Chrissie. Adding Robbie McIntosh and Malcolm Foster, the band stayed
alive. In the meantime, Chrissie conceived two children and married Jim Kerr of Simple Minds.
Studio work had already begun on Get Close, when Chrissie abruptly changed her mind and recruited new members to
complete the album, namely T.M. Stevens on bass and Blair Cunningham on drums.
Comparatively speaking, Get Close is softer and more subdued than previous Pretenders albums. The main attraction
is the expanded instrumentation and new musical direction on the LP.
Get Close was produced by Jimmy Iovine and Bob Clearmountain with the exception of one track, a cover tune of Jimi
Hendrix's "Room Full Of Mirrors," which was produced by Steve Lillywhite (producer of albums for Psychedelic
Furs, U2 and XTC, among others).
Several of the tracks on the LP are quite good, ranging from "When I Change My Life" to the upbeat "Don't
Get Me Wrong," the first single off the LP.
Others include "Chill Factor," a bluesy tune that clearly expresses Chrissie's new mother-instinct (dedicated
to all father-less households in the world) and "I Remember You," a soft, swinging tune that speaks of
special memories of a previous love.
Although Get Close doesn't display the best music from the Pretenders, it is a welcome new arrival and a hopeful
sign of better things to come.
|Rolling Stone January 15, 1987
by Rob Tannenbaum
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 Learning to Crawl, the band's last LP, was the way Hynde pulled
that sound together even after 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
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 more than an admirable gesture
because Hynde can't sing the inadequate chorus — "It's cold to leave a woman/With family on her own/It's chill
factor/To the bone" — with the same private fervor that made "Precious" and "Middle of the
Road" convincing feminist tales.
Although the first three songs on side one revolve around images of change, the album's highlights are the material
that's most similar to Learning to Crawl — Meg Keene's "Hymn to Her," a triumphant contemplation of female
roles; the downcast "I Remember You"; the prayerful, country-ish "When I Change My Life"; and
a crackling cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Room Full of Mirrors," which features the band from the last LP.
According to Robbie McIntosh, the band's personnel and stylistic changes were precipitated by Hynde's appreciation
for Madonna and Prince. If she's smart enough to be impressed by those artists, she should also have been smart
enough to realize that "Brass in Pocket" and "Middle of the Road" were more soulful than anything
on Get Close.