For a woman with a voice like an open (if rough-edged) straight razor, Chrissie Hynde chose a smooth retro-pop vein to slash into for her solo debut. Stockholm, produced by Peter Bjorn and John’s Bjorn Yttling, has the cutting lyrical tilt and raw agony that defined the Pretender, but its sheen beckons listeners.
The silken opener “You Or No One,” string-drenched and timpani-rolled, evokes ‘60s Britpop at its lushest. Hynde claims a smarter rock for grown-ups; romantic as it is real, the Akron, Ohio native’s music tackles desire, betrayal and the tenuous gulf between.
“Tourniquet (Cynthia Ann)” is the collection’s most devastated. Cascading celesta notes, like a music box for Miss Havisham, frame this near post-loss meditation with childlike trust. With Hynde’s voice dusty and worn, exhausted by crawling from the wreckage, the sparse track suggests extreme measures are the only solution for life force eking away.
This is Chrissie Hynde, however. No martyrdom or victimhood here. Bad love affairs? Sure. Owning pain? Absolutely. But, she still impales as well as she flinches.
Recrimination lashes “Dark Sunglasses,” the lead single that percolates and lacerates with jabbing guitar notes. Hynde, antifreeze running through her veins, catalogues the aspirational motivations of her former paramour, a gutless man who’d rather marry up than be real with eye-rolling cynicism.
There are Neil Young slashes on “Down the Wrong Way” and a Crazy Horse-esque seethe especially on the solo, as Hynde sneers defeat and rises from the wreckage. “I’ve become what I criticized/ The porn queen in my deck of lies” is the opening salvo, only to give way to the realization that the triumph of survival is actually hers.
Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti Western surge colors the fraught “A Plan Too Far,” equal parts straying defection (his) and reality-earned rejection (hers). The industrial creep “House of Cards” serves clear-eyed self-reliance to a lover who won’t commit. “Sweet Nuthin’”—chiding the same man?—takes strings to the chorus as it calls out his flaws, while explaining her lowered standards. The honeyed soul rising “oooh-whoo-oooh”s mark her vocal, tempering the scolding “Don’t be such a baby” and admonishments “I don’t expect much/ Just show up when you say” and “You can save it for your solo album.”
The contradictions of what we want and what we tolerate are the truest bedrock of love. Hynde, the tattooed love boys’ patron saint, knows it’s rocky ground. For her solo debut, she surrenders completely to the euphoria of “You’re The One,” intrigues and seduces, then resolves all with the shrugged acoustic send-off “Adding The Blue,” an elegy for what starts strong and fades to little more than memory.