Some good bands came out of the '80s but few great outfits come rolling off the tip of your tongue with relative ease when discussing that particular decade. It is funny, when I think about the Pretenders I think of the '70s. The only problem is the band did not exist then. They had a classic rock sound with enough grit and punk to fit right into that era so it is easy to envision them in that timeframe. Whatever it is about this band I know one thing, the first time I heard them I loved their sound. I would think most longtime fans hang on to the first two albums as the holy grail of their catalog. And so they should because they were never better.
Once James Honeyman-Scott was gone so went the Pretenders sound into a more straight-ahead rock formula. It was good but not the same. This is what separates their first two releases from everything else they have ever done, hence Rhino’s choice of reissuing these two great recordings with a truck load of bonus material, the cardboard cases and sleeves to emulate the old LP gatefold format, and in addition to all of that, booklets with some great pictures and fine informative write ups. So when you put it all together it is a great package. I love when CDs come in cardboard packaging, they do not scratch or crack nor require replacement all the time, you just take care of them and store them carefully as if you would collectable vinyl LPs, and there are no worries.
It is debatable which album is the best. I think they are on equal ground, each one has its moments, and they rate five stars in my view. Honeyman-Scott was special and there is no telling how far he would have gone, just like many others before him. The good thing is he left behind some masterful guitar licks on these two classic albums.