Chrissie Hynde: Valve Bone Woe review – offbeat jazz with rock star cool

Hynde’s album of covers is inviting and interesting, thanks to her insouciant attitude

Chrissie Hynde has offered up various justifications for her latest record, a collection of jazz-facing covers of classic tracks. One is that she found belated inspiration in her 1994 duet with Frank Sinatra; another is a newfound desire to sing melodies – having recently observed their “decline” in popular music. Or, perhaps, she is simply following the winds of change: according to the Pretenders frontwoman, the “demise of rock” has prompted a jazz resurgence, and she wants in.

Chrissie Hynde: Valve Bone Woe album art work
Chrissie Hynde: Valve Bone Woe album art work Photograph: Publicity Image

Maybe Hynde is so keen to rationalise her decision because rerouting along a gentler, jazzier path could be viewed as a rather hackneyed move for a 67-year-old rock star. But Valve Bone Woe is neither trite nor tedious.

Instead, it sees Hynde drown out cliche (and, occasionally, any recognisable tune) with her inbuilt insouciant cool and disregard for anything approaching stuffy tradition. Alongside jazz, she calls on dub, psychedelia and faintly disorientating interludes of electronica to enhance the otherworldliness of her alternative American songbook. There are offbeat, luxuriously melancholic versions of jazz standards and moody bossa nova numbers (including a Kinks song inspired by the genre). She injects unsettling strangeness into Beach Boys and Nick Drake tunes, and, miraculously, manages to make a Rodgers and Hammerstein composition sound rock’n’roll.

Despite choosing multiple songs famously performed by vocal powerhouses (Streisand, Simone, Sinatra), Hynde’s voice is rarely the main attraction.

Rather, it is the attitude she radiates – one of aspirational nonchalance, lightly worn swagger and subtle subversiveness – that makes Valve Bone Woe so inviting and interesting: less an indicator of impending irrelevance than a reminder of the thrills Hynde is still capable of producing.


Rachel Aroesti

The GuardianTramp

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