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Funny to think that in this day and age of insta-rebellion, just-add-water-and-medication tabloid mock rock that this band chose THIS name. Truth be told they were anything but. Formed at the tail end of 1978 around a nucleus of ex-journo/scenester, Chrissie Hynde and bassist ex-beau, Pete Farndon, this amalgamation of retro-rock and gritty post-punk observation was, by the time they released this, their second album, living on borrowed time. Within a year both Farndon and guitarist James Honeyman-Scott would be dead. Both of drug overdoses. But in the manner of all true stars, this lot did burn very brightly while it lasted.
The band's first album contained everything that made them such an instant success and also ideal candidates to take UK new wave's gospel across the pond. It melded classic Brit songcraft (Ray Davies' "Stop Your Sobbing") with instant pop-rock classics of their own (Kid, Brass In Pocket) and slightly transgressive sexual tale-telling (Private Lives, Tattooed Love Boys). What's more the unique American voice of Hynde matched with the tribal beat of Martin Chambers and spangly guitar of Honeyman-Scott was as close to perfect as a band could get in the late 70s. Yet excessive touring combined with the aforementioned substance abuse helped the creative juices stall somewhat. It was difficult second album time.
Critically roasted for its copycat stylings, II WAS a slight disappointment at the time. It had ANOTHER Ray Davies song (the gorgeous "I Go To Sleep") and more transgressive silliness ("Bad Boys Get Spanked", "The Adultress"). Also the other hits ("Message Of Love" and "Talk Of The Town") had been released months beforehand. And yet, history, in this case has been kind. Stripped of the makeweight associations II is a shining example of all that was great about this line up.
Honeyman-Scott on "Message Of Love is peerless in his flanged , six-string attack, spraying lovely chords over Hynde's aching vocal. The yearning on "Talk Of The Town" is also palpable. Hynde was not just a feminist icon but a deeply moving performer. Listening to the travelogue/turmoil of "Day After Day" also tragically shows that the band were well aware of how living on the edge was going to end in tears.
Within months it was all over, and though Hynde and Chambers returned it could never be the same. Luckily we still have this to remind us... --Chris Jones
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