"OK lets get one thing straight. This is a great album--of course it can't compare to the debut, but what can? The original Pretenders were one of those rare bands where all players figure prominently into the final sound. (Listen to how you can hear Pete Farndon's bass in almost every song) Chrissie's songwriting is still great, Martin Chambers and James Honeyman Scott are in fine form. Message of Love is just a flat out great rollicking(that is the word that keeps coming to mind) single, The Adultress and Jealous Dogs keep rockin' right where the first record stopped. Birds of Paradise and The English Roses are beatifully written and performed songs comparable to Kid from the debut. But my favorite song and one of the Pretenders finest tunes has got to be Talk of the Town--gorgeous driving melody and wistful lyrics with that Chrissie Hynde stamp "Oh but its hard to live by the rules, I never could and still never do" In 20 year hindsight there are some weaknesses that I can reluctantly admit--Some critics have rightfully accused Pack It Up as self parody (but it still sounds cool), a second Kinks cover in as many albums, and as one astute reviewer noted, Bad Boys Get Spanked is a re-write of Tattooed Love Boys. (But check out that Clint Eastwood/Dirty Harry sample)
In 1982 Pete Farndon was kicked out of the band for being unreliable and two days later James Honeyman Scott died of a coke induced heart attack thus ending the original band. Eight months later Pete Farndon also died. (In his bathtub with a needle in his arm) One of the most tragic wastes in rock history-- There are only two cds featuring this extremely talented and versatile band so kids, chemistry like this doesnt come along very often and this second record is a nice followup to the debut."
A Beautiful, Peculiar Album
Gundy Brain | 10/23/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If this had been The Pretenders' first album, it would probably have been considered one of the best debuts ever. However,Pretenders 1 was an awesome debut, and Pretenders 2 suffered from unnecessary comparisons to it. Only "Bad Boys Get Spanked" is overtly a rewrite(of Tattooed Love Boys, so I docked them a star)There are huge chunks of great stuff on this record! Especially "Talk of the Town","Birds of Paradise","Message of Love","Waste not Want not","I Go To Sleep","Pack It Up","The English Roses",and "Day after Day". I truly miss James Honeyman-Scott, and Pete Farndon. Their expertise shines here, just like the first album, and Chrissie is a true original, and always fascinating. The whole thing is tied together by one of rock's greatest drummers, Martin Chambers. All in all a truly heartfelt and melodic enigma."
Bad Reviews Get Spanked
Gundy Brain | 01/21/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Sorry, but anyone who is down on this album is missing out on what was the 2nd half of an amazing group. Though Hynde went on to do much more in the name of the Pretenders, in many ways she was "pretending". This original group had an edge (in the shape of Pete Farndon and James Scott) that stood up to Hynde's lyrical bullying and her tough girl posturing. In a musical sense it pushed back and told her to shut up. It is obvious that this quartet is a group, as opposed to the rent for hire mentality and sound of the later incarnations of the Pretenders. (Clean sound and subservient chords.) It is hard to fully appreciate what Farndon and Scott contribute until you listen to anything following P II. It is missing its seriously edgy/unstable mentality and is wholly without its nasty, big, bad groove. This is a great work . . . ."
A Stand-Alone Classic
James Burke | San Francisco | 03/02/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The issue Pretenders II faces is that it's rarely critiqued on its own merit. This album finds itself in the impossible position of being the bridge between their seminal classic debut and the body of work most fans know, the (IMO) bland, MOR Tom Pettyish "Pretenders" of the mid-80s and 90s.
The result? Many fans of the first album find this one a bit of a letdown, many fans of the later work don't get it -- it's constantly being compared rather than reviewed.
But if you could imagine for a moment a world in which this were the only album the Pretenders released, it would almost certainly be a different story. Instead of a letdown, I'm certain this would be regarded as one of the better albums of its era.
That aside, the fact remains that this is a great Pretenders album for one simple reason: "Message of Love" is the band's best song. If every other song on the album were crap, it would still be worth owning. But they're not. In fact, it's a very strong set; "Talk of the Town" and "Day After Day" are classics in their own right. But even barring THAT, there's still much to love in the rarely heard deep cuts -- could an album that incudes anything as beautiful as "Birds of Paradise" honestly be considered a failure?
So, viewed as a stand-alone album versus a part their body of work, Pretenders II shines -- it's terrific. In fact, if you don't own any Pretenders albums, I'd strongly suggest buying this first so you can give it an unbiased listen and move on from there.
To sum, a great album that never got its due."
Time has been kind.
Armchair Rambo | MINNEAPOLIS, MN United States | 04/23/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This record sounds very different to me now. Some distance from it's release leaves this one sounding like a companion to the first record. The songwriting is at times tenative, but who cares -- this band can get over on it's playing alone, and some of the songwriting was very fine indeed.
The second album was greeted as a disappointment by pretty much everyone when it came out. Some of the best songs had already been released and the songwriting was criticized. IMO there was filler on their first album too.
But it was all pretty damn exciting, filler included. Pretenders played like a band. Then the guitar players flamed out doing stupid drug tricks and everything changed. Not necessarily for good or bad, just different. They've gone on to make great music, but they've never sounded like such a powerful, cohesive unit as on these records.
As for P2, everything on that first album is here: sex, lust, threats, fears, Chrissie's tremulous low voice (and a couple of choice screams), good-to-great songs, exciting playing.
Some of the highlights: 'Talk of the Town' is as good as anything written by Hynde's hero, Ray Davies; 'Message of Love' another perfect pop single; 'I Go to Sleep', another great Kinks cover; and it kicks off with a couple of ridiculous, funny songs that show off the band's playing.
This is not the best Pretenders album. But it is most improved - in hindsight P2 sounds strong. It's *one* of their best. "