The Pretenders and Psychedelic Furs were two 1980s bands with differing musical approaches, but a shared attitude of detached sneer. The Psychedelic Furs have toured in this century, but haven’t delivered a studio album in nearly 30 years, giving Richard Butler’s distinctive voice an edge in the nostalgia department. But The Pretenders provide the boldest statement in their Hate for Sale (BMG), surprising given the band’s uneven output over the last decade. Chrissie Hynde’s songwriting with new guitarist James Walbourne generates a crisp and bold post-punk rarely seen since 1980. In fact, in songs like “The Buzz,” we even get Hynde’s melodic honey-like delivery — though the album ends with a maudlin “Crying in Public.”
The Psychedelic Furs always hovered in more goth-influenced corners, which could result in a too-scattered and synth-infused presentation. Keyboardist Amanda Kramer, who has been with the band since 2003, has steered the Butler brothers to a more polished delivery. In the first few songs of the new Made of Rain (Cooking Vinyl), the results seem unfocused, but by the time Mars Williams comes in with spooky saxophones in “Wrong Train,” the album coalesces into an exciting return to form.