We have reached a stage in the development of pop for an old group to sound almost exactly like they did when they were starting out. This is not just the result of rapidly improving studio wizardry – proving to their fan base that they can still sound like they did the day they first rushed out of the traps – but also of the desire to recapture that first flush of fame, when their records had the blessing of novelty as well as distinction.
The Pretenders are one such example, and their new disc, Break Up the Concrete, doesn't sound so very different from their first, 30 years ago. The album comes with a "doubled-up" Best of ... CD, containing everything from "Back on the Chain Gang" and "Kid" to "Message of Love" and "I'll Stand by You". It also contains a song that had previously passed me by, a small masterpiece called "Night in My Veins".
In 1994, Chrissie Hynde – who to all intents and purposes is The Pretenders – felt the band needed a hit, and so drafted in songwriters Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly, who wrote "True Colors" for Cyndi Lauper and "Eternal Flame" for The Bangles. Their biggest success was the worldwide hit "I'll Stand by You", although that always sounded a little too much like Bryan Adams for my liking. But it's a revelation that they also co-wrote "Night in My Veins".
With lines such as "He's got his hands in my hair and his lips everywhere, he's got me up against the back of a pick-up truck, either side of the neon glare, it's just the night under my skin ... slippin' it in..." it sounds as though Hynde is lost in a maelstrom of lust.
" 'I'll Stand by You' felt a little generic," recalls Steinberg, "and I know Chrissie felt that way too to some extent. But 'Night in My Veins' felt like a great Pretenders rocker." Not just that, but one of the most vivid, as well as libidinous songs Hynde has ever sung. It's as though she suddenly walked into one of those photographs by Gregory Crewdson, a seemingly ordinary suburban landscape masking nefarious goings-on. It whispers sex.
Oh, and yes, in case you were in any doubt, it also sounds just like any other song the Pretenders have recorded in the last 30 years.
Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'Reuse content