Pretenders - self-titled


Deluxe Edition


The Music Box's #4 reissue of 2006

First Appeared in The Music Box, November 2006, Volume 13, #11

Written by John Metzger


Unlike most outfits, the Pretenders came into the world fully formed. Building upon its successes in the U.K., the transcontinental ensemble — lead singer Chrissie Hynde was from Akron, Ohio; guitarist James Honeyman-Scott, bass player Pete Farndon, and drummer Martin Chambers were from Britain — issued its self-titled debut, just as the drug-fueled excesses of the punk and disco scenes were being replaced with the synth-drenched rock that served as the score for the conservative socio-political policies of Margaret Thatcher and, later, Ronald Reagan. In early 1979, the group had turned Ray Davies’ Stop Your Sobbing into a shimmering pop song, while the subsequent Kid had grafted country charm and crunchy rock to a ’60s girl group ambience. However, it was Brass in Pocket, a soul-imbued statement of female sexual empowerment, that not only had cemented the band’s reputation but also had given it a full head of steam for the launch of its career in America.

Nevertheless, the Pretenders’ singles hardly provided an indication as to just how rough-and-tumble its self-titled debut was going to be. For certain, the album was hinged upon Stop Your Sobbing, and in revolving around Kid and Brass in Pocket, its latter half also contained a noticeably more subdued and textured tonality that swerved from reggae (Private Life) to tenderhearted sorrow (Lovers of Today). It was the riveting, pop-punk angst of the opening six tracks, however, that gave the set (and the band) its momentum. By crashing the classic rock of Lou Reed, The Kinks, and The Who into the jittery frenzy of The Ramones and the Sex Pistols, the Pretenders unleashed a volatile mixture of sexual aggression and vulnerability that effectively turned the male-oriented posturing of Led Zeppelin on its ear. The controlled rage of Honeyman-Scott’s guitar accompaniments was a perfect match for the attitude of Hynde’s confident vocals and suggestive lyrics, and, even in the wake of gangsta rap, Emimem, and hip-hop, her bold and brassy taunts in songs like Precious and Tattooed Love Boys remain shocking.

Despite the issuance earlier this year of Pirate Radio, the first box set to be devoted to the Pretenders’ work, the deluxe edition of the band’s self-titled debut boasts a myriad of previously unreleased demos and concert cuts as well as a few B-sides and other rarities. Little of it is essential, of course, but in the grand scheme of things, it fares remarkably well. In fact, the sum total of the bonus material — a full 16-tracks in all — accomplishes its goal of providing an insightful glimpse into how the Pretenders’ inaugural effort took shape. Further boosting the merit of this expansive, two-disc collection are the final live selections — I Need Somebody, Mystery Achievement, Precious, Tattooed Love Boys, and Sabre Dance — each of which is a simmering blast of pure adrenaline.


Pretenders [Original Album] — starstarstarstar ˝

Bonus Materials starstarstar ˝

Pretenders [Deluxe Edition] — starstarstarstar ˝


Pretenders [Deluxe Edition] is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


Copyright © 2006 The Music Box