Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be the 100 Most Dynamic Debut Albums Ever Made, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Click “Next Album” below to explore each album or view the full album index here.
The self-titled debut album from The Pretenders introduced Chrissie Hynde to the world of rock & roll and it immediately catapulted her to the upper echelon of lead singers. Her style was forceful, feminine, distinct and warned everybody that she could kick your ass if she had to. Add that to the steady playing of bandmates Pete Farndon (bass), James Honeyman-Scott (lead guitar, keyboards) and Martin Chambers (drums) and you have one of the best albums of the 1980s.
With many debut albums, artists usually are in the midst of finding their voice, but this was not the case with Pretenders. Once the opening track “Precious” starts playing, it’s as if the band came busting through your speakers and then parts to the side to make way for Hynde. Her vocal performance grabs you by your shirt collar, pulls you in close, and then shoves you in a chair, demanding your attention. This is how you start an album.
The album is not just a showcase for Hynde, but a sterling example of what a band sounds like when they are in sync and clicking on all cylinders. It’s a steady rollercoaster ride from the in-your-face sexuality of “Tattooed Love Boys” to the excellent cover of The Kinks’ “Stop Your Sobbing” and that is only side one. “Kid” and “Private Life” kick off side two and then we arrive at their masterpiece, “Brass in Pocket.” It grabs your attention from the moment Hynde sings “Got brass in pocket.” It’s not a ballad or a pop song, but it is in a class with a few other songs that hold up decades after their release.
“Mystery Achievement” is the strong finish the album deserves. Clocking in at just a bit over 45 minutes, Pretenders is definitely worth repeated listens. Not many albums released in 1980 are as listenable today from beginning to end as this one. This is what a rock album should sound like.