Overflowing with slashing guitars, boss beats, and fierce swagger, the Pretenders' 1979 debut remains one of the premier calling cards in rock history. Sadly, perhaps expectedly, 1981's follow-up was something of a disappointment, but since this is the only recorded output of the band's original lineup, both LPs remain essential touchstones for anyone with a love for songwriting that uniquely matches the aggressiveness of punk with luminous pop. Beyond remastered sound, these two reissues are notable for their second CDs. The first album adds "Cuban Slide" and "Porcelain" from the group's Extended Play
EP ('81), as well as some interesting demos of their early work, including a take of "Brass in Pocket" where Chrissie Hynde sings "you're special" in the song's hook, dramatically changing it. The second disc of Pretenders II
("The Adultress," "Message of Love," "Talk of the Town") is made up primarily of what was originally featured on the promo-only release Pretenders Live at the Santa Monica Civic
. This is the real treasure among the two releases, providing a vivid glimpse into what made the band such an attraction in concert, with James Honeyman-Scott's unleashed guitar and Hynde's compelling stage presence leading the way.