Tuesday, September 18, 2007

No. 155: Pretenders

Band: The Pretenders
Album: Pretenders
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: The Pretenders don't do anything groundbreaking, but they do a pretty good facsimile of a dark-hair fronted/more guitar-oriented Blondie.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: I just don't see the draw in putting this record on here.
Best song: "Brass in Pocket" was the hit and it's great. "Precious" is harder than you'd think.
Worst song: "Space Invader" isn't great.
Is it awesome?: It's good, but awesome? Probably not.

"Few rock & roll records rock as hard or with as much originality as the Pretenders' eponymous debut album" is the sentence that starts the Allmusic.com review. Uh, no. The first Pretenders record is nice, but it's an exercise in rock songs. Yes, Chrissie Hynde does some nice hooks. Yes, "Brass In Pocket" is brilliant. Yes, she curses like a sailor on "Precious." Yes, the Ray Davies cover is cool. Is the guitar solo on "Tattooed Love Boys" awesome? Absolutely.

(I've now recounted everything I like about this record. I have no earthly idea as to why critics love this album so much. Chrissie Hynde must have a big following in the rock critics' hearts. For what it's worth, the album was released the year before I was born, so maybe it was really important and awesome in 1980.)

But, a great album? Nope.

(A differing opinion, courtesy of Robert Christgau:

Tough gals, tough gals--suddenly the world is teeming with tough gals. And Chrissie Hynde is a good one. Maybe not all of her songs are championship singles, but she's got more to offer emotionally and musically (and sexually) than any of the competition, unless Patti counts. She's out for herself but she gives of herself as well; when she alternates between rapacity and tenderness you don't feel she's acting coy or fucked up, although she may be. And she conveys these changes with her voice as well as with her terse, slangy, suggestive lyrics. James Honeyman Scott's terse, slangy, suggestive guitar steals don't hurt either. A-

1 comment:

fft said...

These guys don't translate very well into the present and they didn't really age that well. Chrissie Hynde pretty much gets a pass because of what she did before the Pretenders. She was in England hanging out with members The Sex Pistols, The Clash, and The Damned before moving back to the states. So she had this heavy punk credibility and lived like a rock star, so when she started to soften up with the Pretenders the critics ate it up. She rocked harder before the band then after, and none of that comes across on albums.