˝The Singles˝ is ultimately a compelling, although incomplete, survivor’s story. In Hynde the group had one of music’s most eloquent, expressive voices, as sharp and sarcastic in aiming at social ills (she was among the first to chide early MTV for excluding black artist videos, then ridiculed those same black artists for transforming the videos into commercials) as she was tender and vulnerable describing the longing of ˝I Go To Sleep˝ or the sexy, tentative swagger of ˝Brass In Pocket.˝ (Credit should also go to members Robbie McIntosh and Martin Chambers, who provided the group its ew wave backbeat punch.)
New Wave got assimilated. Band members enjoyed the rock and roll high life, paying the ultimate cost themselves and exacting a high cost on survivors. Causes arose that had to be addressed, but the Pretenders music survived. ˝Back On The Chain Gang,˝ and ˝Middle Of The Road˝ (from 1983’s top-selling ˝Learning To Crawl˝) are defiant statements of purpose, band members rocking ever harder as Hynde shouts, ˝I’m going home, I’m tired as hell/I’m not the kind I used to be/I’ve got a kid, I’m 33.˝ It may not have been the first time a working mom expressed her frustration in song, but it was among the most powerful.
The early hits are all here: their first single ˝Stop Your Sobbing,˝ the gorgeous Christmas ballad ˝2000 Miles˝, a fun remake of ˝I Got You Babe˝ with UB40. The sound would become more generic after this release, with guest backup more constant. But albums like ˝Last Of The Independents˝ and ˝Viva El Amor˝ are the latest proof that the the Pretenders and Hynde are in for the long haul. This essential hits set proved it first.