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Friday, 8 June 2018
The Pretenders - Pretenders II (1981)
Released August 1981
Recorded in London and Paris
After a pretty impressive and successful debut album, as was often the way in the fast-paced era of punk/new wave, the pressure was immediately on to come up with a second album. So many bands suffered from this and ended up with a hastily-released second album that would have been better if they had waited a while and upped the quality control a little. The Pretenders certainly suffered from this malaise, as did The Jam and The Police.
"The Adultress" is a chugging, uninspired start to proceedings. It sounds muffled, with tired guitar riffs and a lazy vocal. All the vigour of the previous album seems to have been lost. Even the production sounds half-baked. Poor sound, indistinct guitar and drums. "Bad Boys Get Spanked" tries to recreate some of the vitality of a few months earlier, but again the production leaves some thing to be desired. A punky attack and some embarrassing "saucy" lyrics are not enough to save it really. "Message Of Love" lifts things up a little, an energetic drum intro and guitar riff but again, this is a track that I have always felt never quite makes it. It was released as a single but was only an average seller. It is ok, though, certainly better than the first two tracks. It sounds more like the sort of material that was so successful on the first album. The cover of The Kinks' "I Go To Sleep" is a good one, though. Slow and romantic, with a nice horn part and Parisian-sounding guitar note after the title line is sung.
"Bird Of Paradise" is a nice song, with an attractive ambience and delivery, but it jus sounds so dense and muffled. The production on this album is really extremely poor. It spoiled what was potentially a good track here, I feel. "Talk Of The Town" was a good single. A snappy melody and 60s style guitar sound, together with a strong vocal from Chrissie Hynde. A classic early eighties new wave single. Takes me right back hearing it. Chrissie's voice is back to its seductive timbre that so characterised the first album. Instantly recognisable. She still enunciates her 'w's" as 'v''s though!
"Pack It Up" quotes tennis bad boy John McEnroe at the beginning - "you guys are the pits of the world" and accompanied by a hard rock riff, Chrissie tells of live on the road in and out of hotels and living out of a suitcase. It has a rock appeal if you just turn it up and forget the bad sound. (By the way, this is supposed to be a remastered edition. Maybe it is simply that nothing can be done with he album, so poorly was it recorded in the first place). The final rant by Chrissie at her departed lover are quite amusing.
The white reggae of "Waste Not Want Not" is my favourite track on the album. It sounds good, in comparison to much of the rest of it, has a great vibe. bass and drum sound and a beguiling vocal from Chrissie. It is this album's "Private Life". "Day After Day" is back to the realms of just ok and not much more. Nothing wrong with it, but nothing special either. Actually, listening to it again, I quite like it, but it just doesn't have that "something" about it. The same applies to "Jealous Dogs", with its trite lyrics about "rolling over and begging". Come on Chrissie, you can do better than this. All pretty lazy. After a few more listens, though, I feel I have been a bit harsh and these two tracks are not too bad, I just can't get away from the bad sound.
"The English Roses", with some nice bass, and the frantic, horn-driven "Louie Louie" (not a cover of The Kingsmen's hit) bring it back up a bit to end on a high point, but as I have mentioned again and again throughout this review the poor sound on the album simply affects one's whole outlook on it. It just feels half-cooked to me in many ways. I felt that way in 1981 when I first bought it and time hasn't changed my opinion, unfortunately. The "bonus material" "demo" version of "Talk Of The Town" is, pointedly, far superior in sound quality. This is how the whole album should have sounded. Also, the "guitar version" of "I Go To Sleep" is a better version, in my opinion.