. . .
As you can imagine, after the twin triumphs of Pretenders and the Extended Play EP, I was totally looking forward to the follow-up. And I was totally disappointed.
Now, by no stretch of the imagination is Pretenders II a bad album, and I loved how the cover hearkened back to the days when the Rolling Stones would glower at you from one of their mid-1980s album covers — though Chrissie Hynde said in her book that she didn’t like it because of the airbrushing both made it look fake and yet still couldn’t hide Pete Farndon’s heroin pallor (not as bad as Brian Jones on the cover of Between The Buttons, but still) — but for a band who had made their name eschewing formula, it seemed, well . . . formulaic.
I mean, “Bad Boys Get Spanked” was totally unnecessary, as was yet another Ray Davies cover, and while I get why they recycled both “Message of Love” and “Talk of the Town” from Extended PlayExtended Play wouldn’t have ever been released, but I think it would have been worth it.
So allow me to present an alternate universe version of Pretenders II that I think would have been a worthy follow-up to Pretenders.
See? With “Message of Love” and “Talk of the Town” opening and closing the album and both “Cuban Slide” and “Porcelain” there to shore up the back half of each side into, suddenly Pretenders II is a solid A- instead of a B.
Instead, a song like “Pack It Up” somehow got a bit lost for me at first, despite it being as much of a barn-burner as most of their other great songs. Starting off with a massive repeating James Honeyman-Scott riff, Chrissie Hynde screaming “You guys are the pits of the world!!” — which she stole from a John McEnroe rant — followed by a face-melting “oooooh-whoooa-ooooh-whooaaa,” just before she once again gets the fuck out of Ohio.
Oh, this is no place for me
Burnin’ down the interbelt, from jacuzzi to jacuzzi
It’s all right for you man
Gettin’ smashed, gettin’ suntanned
But I know my place
Where’s my suitcase?
As befits a song about moving on, “Pack It Up” is continually changing, Honeyman-Scott’s guitar alternating ringing, clanging, chiming and banging against Hynde’s increasingly angry lyrics, which even include a shot at (or at least, reference to) “Stop Your Sobbing” producer Nick Lowe:
Pack it all up, nothing goes in storage
I’m burnin’ every bridge
Burn, baby, burn
I see your dog got shot
Well, hell, never mind
That’s show biz, big boy
You’ve got to be cruel to be kind
At the end, she goes on an extended rant just gets meaner and meaner.
I may be a skunk
But you’re a piece of junk, and furthermore
I don’t like your trousers
Your appalling taste in women
And what about your mind
Your insipid record collection
That dumb home video center
The usual pornography
And all you scumbags around the world
You’re the pits of the world!
I probably didn’t mean to come across this way, but to me, all of that contempt comes across as kinda funny, one sick burn after another that I’m glad wasn’t directed at me. Even if it was. And of course it wouldn’t work at all without the dialog between Honeyman-Scott’s guitar — which continually circles back to the main riff — and Hynde’s gorgeous singing in between the rants.
“Pack It Up”
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