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Pretenders

The debut album released January 1980. I can still remember seeing (and cutting out and saving - an archivist in the making!) the ad for upcoming releases in Rolling Stone, and waiting for the time when I could get my 13-year-old hands on a copy for myself...
     From bizarre time signatures to the accidental echoing vocals on Stop Your Sobbing, everything you could ever hope for is right here.

Extended Play

A five-song release that contains the note-laden Talk of the Town and the strangely constructed Message of Love plus their B-sides and a bonus live track of Precious recorded live in Central Park.
     Originally released because of the heavy demand for new Pretenders music while the band was unable to get into the studio (due to their virtually non-stop touring), Extended Play allowed us a savoury taste of what was to come on the second album.

Pretenders II

Pretenders II received a vast amount of bad reviews, but that certainly did not stop the fans from buying, and thoroughly enjoying, the record.
     Here we find the jealousy, deceit, loneliness and wastefulness that are a big part of the human condition all presented in a beautiful gift box of guitars, drums and bass. Sadly, these were the last notes recorded by James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon.

Learning to Crawl

Highly-polished songs fill this disk. This album remains clean throughout -- clunky, chunky and bumpy -- but very, very clean. "Watching the Clothes" is an often-overlooked glimpse at Hynde's sense of humour. Those of us who are suckers for the ones we love and have been convinced that laundry responsibilities are proudly ours can relate to every word.     Learning To Crawl has been the most successful Pretenders LP so far due largely to the fact that over half the tracks were radio-friendly. It also signaled a triumphant return as Chrissie and Martin pulled the pieces together after losing Jim and Pete. For the longtime fan, this album was a wonderful yet painful experience... it put a smile on your face and tears in your eyes.

Get Close

Walking into Tower Records in San Jose, California and heading straight for the Pretenders bin (which by now I could've done with my eyes tied behind my back), I could see, even from far off, a neat, thick white line in the front of that section. Getting closer (pun accidentally intended), I saw Chrissie. I picked up the album and held its sides between the flattened palms of my hands. The first thing that came to mind, which I also involuntarily said out loud, was, "Huh." Chrissie. Chrissie? Chrissie. Well, huh. I flipped it over... oh, there the guys were... on the back. That's still the cover, right? The back of the cover, but the cover. Who were these guys? Don't bother to say hello, they're gone.
     I made my purchase and tore the plastic wrap off while exiting the store, my usual habit for a Pretenders purchase. I slid the inner sleeve out while walking to the car and found... lyrics. Lyrics? Lyrics. I looked them over, trying to read everything at once and not being able to. When I got home, I put it on the turntable. I'd never winced at Pretenders music, never cringed at it before either. A few of the songs are great, others OK, and the rest are just embarrassing - but their mind-melting version of Hendrix's Room Full of Mirrors is one of the best things life has to offer.

The Singles

Self-explanatory, except that I Got You Babe was included and is not a Pretenders recording (it's UB40 with Chrissie). Chrissie has said that she never wanted that track included, but the record company stuck it on there anyhow.

Packed!

Chrissie dips deeply into the session musicians pool on this one. Now completely surrounded by folks who will let her get away with an average performance, Packed! lacks the quality you've now come to expect. You need that potent dose and just don't get it. You want more, you need more, but you can't have it. It's not there. There are some truly touching songs on here, but I can't listen to them. Their sound is akin to that of an animal caught in a trap and running out of time.

Last of the Independents

They're back! They're back!!
     Different session musicians play on the album, but Chrissie was in the process of sifting through them to find anyone who was suitable as a permanent member. After hearing Night In My Veins on the radio before the release of Independents, I knew this was no Packed! It was very easy to slide right back into the routine of counting the days until the release of the record. I got up early - I had to be there when the store opened, but not any earlier...glass doors, a new Pretenders album on the other side of them... don't tempt me.
     Came home and played the CD all day without stopping. Still haven't gotten tired of it after who-knows-how-many listens. It's a great package with many flavours to choose from. I knew she could still do it.

The Isle of View

Not an unplugged album. Not even an acoustic album, The Isle Of View is sometimes acoustic, sometimes electric, sometimes with a string section, and always astounding.
     Anyone who wants to hear an example of the perfect human voice, give Isle a listen. You'll get caught up in its jaw-dropping tornado of sound as well as wrapped up in the warm cloak of Hynde's voice. Perfect.

Viva El Amor

Listening to Viva El Amor is like living inside a snow globe - you're constantly at the mercy of others - you aren't in control. The band flips you back and forth, tosses you around, and shakes you up but good... all just because they can!
     I can't compare this album to anything because I've never heard anything like it. It stands on its own. If you're looking for the pure stuff that really takes your head out for a spin, here it is.

Greatest Hits

Greatest Hits CD. Not a lot to say about it - has the hits, or at least most of them.

Loose Screw

This is the Pretenders first release on their new label, Artemis Records.
     Loose Screw is an interesting combination of pop and reggae. It's easy to listen to. It's easy to groove to.
     I barely remember life before "You Know Who Your Friends Are" and can't imagine life without it now.

See also...
Soundtracks / Bootlegs / Radio Shows / Picture Discs
Compilations - Pretenders / Compilations - Various Artists

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