I had a pub conversation once about Radiohead’s “Creep”, where we decided the ideal cover would be one grounded in full-on swagger, simply inverting every “I” and “You” in the song: “I’m so fucking special – you wish you were special…you’re a creep!”. “Brass In Pocket” isn’t quite what we were getting at – there’s no sense that Chrissie Hynde’s target is any weaker than her, even if his capitulation is inevitable – but as an exercise in total confidence it takes some beating. The danger in the song is that its determination could shade into desperation, but when you listen to it you never once doubt that Hynde’s got the moves to back up her words: if anything, the song’s a challenge to her lover-to-be to step up and match her.
The band keep things steady in the background, cresting and rolling back unobtrusively to give their singer the space and stage she needs – and her vocal is a box-of-tricks performance, snapping from purr to pounce in the space of a line. Without it, actually, the song is nothing at all – there’s no particuarly good hooks in “Brass In Pocket”, no chorus, just build and force: if you don’t like Hynde’s voice there’s not a lot of room for you to enjoy it. And the honest truth is, I don’t like it – she’s borrowing a lot from Patti Smith but there’s a spontaneity in Smith’s singing, a sense that her squeals and shouts are unbidden responses to musical and emotional momentum. I don’t hear that in Hynde, and it means I can’t buy into her technique here. Of course, it’s a song about going after what you want with laser focus, so no surprise that the delivery’s kind of calculating – but this is one of those singles where I can understand exactly why it’s loved, but can’t join in myself.