Pretenders
Pretenders II

The Pretenders

Rhino has reissued Pretenders and Pretenders II, the first two albums from the Pretenders, as two-disc sets. The first disc contains a remastered version of the original album, and the second is filled with rarities, out-takes, and live recordings. Both albums, which feature the original lineup of vocalist/guitarist Chrissie Hynde, guitarist James Honeyman-Scott, drummer Martin Chambers, and bassist Pete Farndon, showcase a band that captured the best qualities of punk, new wave, and rock, all in a radio-friendly package that made them an instant sensation.

Hynde's edgy delivery and whip-smart lyrics combined with Honeyman-Scott's lean hook-laden guitar playing set the Pretenders apart from the rest of the new wave scene coming out of London in the late 70s and early 80s. Their sound was tough, yet highly accessible — enabling each album to break the top 10 with several chart-topping singles in the U.S. and England.

Unfortunately, the hard living of a touring band took its toll on various group members, contributing to the tragic deaths of both Farndon and Honeyman-Scott in 1983 shortly after the release of Pretenders II. Hynde and Chambers regrouped with a new lineup for 1984's Learning To Crawl, but the band focused largely thereafter on the songwriting talents of Hynde, which, while appealing in its own right, never quite recaptured the raw energy and attitude of their first two releases.

Having said all that, news of a couple of these Pretenders reissues would have been cause for only mild interest if not for the impressive collection of bonus material included – a full disc in both cases. Bonus material on Pretenders focuses on previously unreleased outtakes and demos including the single-worthy “Cuban Slide,” nascent versions of the Ray Davies-penned “Stop Your Sobbing” and “Brass In Pocket,” and a mix of live performances, including electrifying versions of "Precious" and “Tattooed Love Boys.” The Pretenders II bonus CD includes – among other things – a demo version of “Talk of the Town” and 13 tracks from their 1981 show at the Santa Monica Civic Center.

Oddly, 2006 is also a year in which Rhino released Pirate Radio, a 4 CD/1 DVD retrospective boxed set filled with studio releases, rarities, and live performances by the band. While this might leave fans scratching their heads as to the differences between the packages, rest assured that the bonus material alone makes the reissues worth owning – even if you already have well-worn copies of the originals in your collection.

~ Andrew Todd

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