In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “Undeniable charisma and cool.”
The Pretenders is a band I pretty much knew for a fact I’d like. Their single Brass in Pocket is an undeniable classic that is probably being played on a commercial radio station in your town right now. It’s held up to countless listens over the years and never sounds old. Here’s the thing though, in my experience, hit singles that remain radio standards for decades are rarely representative of a band at their best. More often than not, a song has to be simple, predictable and easy in a lot of ways to be a radio hit that never dies. It’s the deep cuts where you usually find the real gold. And since I recently found the Pretender’s self titled debut on vinyl for $5, I knew it was time to dig into those probably awesome deeper cuts.
Starting strong, Precious sounds perfectly like 1979, and totally modern all at once. To call it punk rock would create too narrow a picture in someone’s imagination. This is one of those songs that goes beyond rock, pop, punk and all those sorts of labels. If the Yeah Yeah Yeahs wrote this song today, they would be heralded as pioneers. It’s not often that 35 year old song holds up as a classic of its time, and also something that still sounds fresh today.
The punk rock energy continues on The Phone Call, before Up the Neck brings a little more of what I expected from The Pretenders based on Brass in Pocket. It has such attitude, without ever having to ram it down the listener’s throat. The A.D.D jerkiness and angled guitar of Tattooed Love Boys is a burst of pure energy and swagger, before things get a little more musically ambitious on the Sergio Leoni meets punk rock instrumental of Space Invader.
The Pretenders is one of those bands which, to the casual listener, is more than likely personified by their front person. Chrissie Hynde was just too sexy and charismatic to look past. And after an instrumental track, it only tacks one random grunt from Hynde in the intro to The Wait to remind me of that undeniable charisma and cool.
While Kid starts off side two in the vibe so well established by side one, Private Life goes full reggae, with a late 70s studio sheen that does nothing to improve on the terrible that idea that is with people attempting reggae. Luckily, it’s followed by Brass in Pocket. A song one great writer once described as one that has, “held up to countless listens over the years and never sounds old.”
And the best part about Pretenders is that while Brass in Pocket is that good of a song, my theory about deep cuts being better was still proven right. So if that is the only Pretenders song you know and you like it, you need to track down a copy of this record right now. Because you have something really special waiting for you.