[Review originally published 1/18/2011 on Skratchdisc]
The holidays and a little bit of travel kept me busy for the last month, and though there are some new releases I’d like to get to, I listened to this gem on the plane and I can’t help but want to give Pretenders II its due.
Now I know most of you, if you’re a PRETENDERS fan, like the first album better. And what’s not to like about that album? Every song’s a winner; it’s hard to beat “Mystery Achievement,” “The Wait” or their cover of “Stop Your Sobbing,” let alone the truly sublime “Brass in Pocket.” But Pretenders II is just as brilliant, just as rockin’, and in my book, a better collection of songs. From the opening beats of “The Adultress,” all the way through “Louie Louie” (not the Kingsmen’s hit), II is a rock ’n’ roll coup.
Can you beat “Message of Love” for a song that is so sensually poetic, and yet still kicks you in the nuts? Chrissie Hynde’s lyrics are so good, even when she lifts others’ lines like “Now look at the people, in the streets, in the bars / We are all of us in the gutter, (but) some of us are looking at the stars,” she’s an original. “Talk of the Town”? Brill. “I Go to Sleep?” Hynde & Co. pick another sleeper of a Ray Davies tune and make it their own. “Bad Boys Get Spanked?” Oh my, how I wished I was getting a spankin’ from Chrissie back then. Yes ma’m, no ma’m… whatever you say, Ms. Hynde!
And what about “Birds of Paradise”: “I wrote a letter to you my friend, so many letters that I never send / I think about you at day’s end, the time that we had / I laughed in my bed, the stupid things you said / We were two birds of paradise.” What a gorgeous song. The band at that time, Chrissie, James Honeyman Scott, Pete Farndon and Martin Chambers, were probably the best unit going at the time. Their intertwining guitar and bass lines on this song, with Chambers’ tasteful percussion, are a showcase for how they could tone it down and still pack a wallop. So, with II, we now had a pair of absolutely stunning albums and then, boom, two of the four [original band members] are gone. It’s sad to say that Pretenders II was the last page in that unmatched opening chapter, but it was, it is, and life goes on.
Chrissie, of course, continued on with Learning to Crawl, also a nice piece of work, but the band from that point on became a bit of a revolving door with its members. Whatever… She still does great work. But if you haven’t given II a spin in awhile, please do. It really is amazing. – Marsh Gooch
5/5 (Sire/Real SRK 3572, 1981)