Friday, July 7, 2017

Pretenders 8: The Isle Of View

Having returned to the charts, Chrissie Hynde and her latest Pretenders lineup were in prime position to be tapped for an “unplugged” television show. They could have simply played the songs acoustically, but instead, the band chose to be joined throughout on most songs by a string quartet. They also set up in the round, playing to each other, while the audience looked on from a distance.
Both the TV show and subsequent album were given the punning title The Isle Of View, though the sequences aren’t identical, and the CD doesn’t include two of the better performances: the recent hit single “Night In My Veins” and her cover of Radiohead’s “Creep”. (As for the “title track”, it’s merely a brief lush instrumental by the quartet with seaside effects, stuck at the end of the disc.)
Those omissions aside, it’s a very entertaining listen, touching on every one of the albums in equal measure, and not always relying on the more familiar ones. “Sense Of Purpose” and “Criminal” are rescued from the obscurity of Packed!, just as “Chill Factor” is better served in this format than the faux-soul of Get Close. “Kid” is slowed down to a near-lullaby, while “The Phone Call” maintains its broken-leg menace. Damon Albarn, then riding high with Blur, is trotted out to play piano on “I Go To Sleep” (take that, Oasis).
The Isle Of View is a good way to spend an hour, and goes a long way to re-establishing Chrissie as both a superb vocalist as well as a songwriter of note. Even better, with her voice up front and the songs given space, it’s possible to finally understand the words to the songs. Some of them, anyway.

Pretenders The Isle Of View (1995)—


  1. Fan for life here since seeing the superb TV show many years ago. Chrissie's vocals were indeed outstanding.

  2. This is a really nice performance. Some songs that I wouldn’t have thought would succeed in acoustic arrangements work – “The Phone Call” and “I Hurt You”, the latter of which got its first live performance. I like this version of “Brass in Pocket” better than the original – it cuts out the choppiness. Although Chrissie was talked out including more deep cuts, I think the setlist includes a good balance between the hits and obscure tracks that the hardcore fans would like. Her vocals are gorgeous, of course. Even people who wouldn’t normally like The Pretenders could get into this. And, yeah, the lyrics to “The Phone Call” are still incomprehensible in this setting!

  3. The first album since the second to have the same lineup on all tracks, of course. The voice, the playing, just fantastic. Her more vulnerable side is emphasized in this setting. Although her record company discouraged her from including more obscure tracks, the album provides a good balance between hits and deeper cuts. There was a re-released version out in 2014 which included the five songs in the encores: "Creep", "Night in My Veins", "Tequila", "Thumbelina" and an otherwise unreleased original called "Blue Sun". Definitely worth hunting down.