Don’t look for Chrissie Hynde lurking online. ”I’ve resisted the Internet and all that,” says the lead Pretender, a technophobe and proud of it. ”We named a song on our first album ‘Space Invader,’ because the guys were always on those machines at the studio, but I just noodled around the pool table and secretly regretted that the pinball machine had gone. That’s when old age started for me. I even bought a little pocket computer to put my addresses in, but tossed it out and went back to the Filofax. I know how to turn pages; I do it every day.” Guess she won’t be licensing ”Brass in Pocket (I’m Special)” to Bill Gates anytime soon.
Hynde’s low-tech leanings may have influenced the decision to record a new all-acoustic live album, The Isle of View. But don’t take it as evidence she’s gone, well, precious. The genteel feel does transform old ballads like ”Kid” from latent to blatant lullabies. But the set has its rockers, too — and for Hynde, the back-to-acoustic phenomenon, just like the resurgence of neo-punk, represents ”a relief after the synthesizer scare in the ’80s.”
The Pretenders’ main wrinkle on unplugging is Isle’s omnipresent string quartet, which Hynde first fell in love with last year while recording ”Angel of the Morning,” a British studio B side that makes its Stateside debut on the Friends soundtrack. Hynde hadn’t even heard of the popular NBC sitcom before contributing the song (and following up with a just-filmed cameo). Lack of exposure to buddy comedies is the price this 44-year-old former Ohioan has paid for the peace she enjoys with her two children in the English countryside — where her routine consists largely of reading Martin Amis novels, doing yoga, lighting up spliffs…and generally avoiding TV and other psychic space invaders.
”I’m feeling motivated, musical, and happy,” Hynde says. ”But remember, I’m this sort of renegade American who hasn’t [lived] there since 1973, so I may be one of the only living Americans who’s never had therapy. I’m in a time warp. I only heard about ‘role models’ recently. Then when I found out that I was one…” She laughs dismissively, a true expatriate without a cause.