PRETENDERS -- The Isle of View (Warner/Reprise Video)

The Pretenders have decided to join the ranks of the "unplugged" group of performers with their new release. While some artists (such as Aerosmith, or Pearl Jam) take the acoustic format and turn it into something really interesting, most just end up heading down "the middle of the road" (to steal a phrase from a Pretenders tune). The latter is the case with "The Isle of View".

For this tour, the band is backed up by The Duke Quartet on strings, and on this performance, Damon Albarn (keyboardist for Blur) makes an appearance as well. Some tracks, such as the beautiful "Hymn to Her", really benefit from the new arrangements. Others are clearly not as good as the originals. Tracks such as "Back on the Chain Gang", and especially "Kid", have been reduced to sleep inducing moments of MOR.

While the laserdisc definitely has it's moments - such as the new versions of "Private Life", and "I Hurt You" (with an excellent solo from guitarist Adam Seymour), or the cover of Radiohead's "Creep" - most of the disc is nothing more than good background music. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but given the material the band has produced in the past, the new disc is a bit disappointing. Only on the recent single, "Night in My Veins" (one of the four bonus tracks available on the laserdisc), does the band ever come close to rocking out.

Fans of adult contemporary radio will probably love this disc. However, long time Pretenders fans may be disappointed.

© 1996 Steve Marshall