Jan 312014

Thanks to the AUX function in the car, my wife’s been playing car DJ with her iPhone and music. One song that recently came on was The Pretenders‘ “Mystery Achievement.” I have very vivid and fond memories of this album in high school, driving around with my friends, doing nothing, with this as our soundtrack.

Hearing it again also had me thinking what a stunning debut this was. As if this band was in hibernation for years before releasing it; it’s that polished. I always loved the guitar playing and rhythm section, too. And though I suspect Mr Mod feels Martin Chambers is akin to Rick Buckler, his fills are so good and he really chugs them ahead.

I’ve been wracking my brain to come up with another band that was this good this early. The Clash got better and Costello’s debut was just a sketch of the greatness to come. So sad to think of how good the Pretenders might have been. Sniff.

Any debut contenders to take the crown?


  43 Responses to “Fully Formed Debuts”

  1. Hey, I think Martin Chambers is nearly excellent! No way do I think of him as a Buckler.

    Speaking of Buckler, how did I miss this 2012 story?


    I agree that the Pretenders came out of the gates as if they had been playing together in secret for 5 years. I’ll have to think about what other bands might have had as auspicious a start.

  2. mockcarr

    More experienced bands perhaps, but when I was in high school it seemed like one went to another every year from The Cars to the Police to the Pretenders.

  3. Yes, two more good ones!

  4. 2000 Man

    Plus Elvis Costello and even Tom Petty. That was a short period of really strong debut albums by several people.

  5. BigSteve

    The Band, obviously, though they had actually be “playing together in secret,” or at least in obscurity, for years before their debut.

  6. hrrundivbakshi

    The Beatles didn’t do too badly.

  7. ladymisskirroyale

    Add the B52s to that mix.

  8. ladymisskirroyale

    I nominate the Friends of the Hall, Fleet Foxes!

    Mr. Royale suggests:
    – Tinder Sticks
    – The Strokes
    – The Jesus and Mary Chain

  9. My beloved Moby Grape. Geo, back me up on this.

  10. Absolutely agreed. And though they don’t get much love here in the Hall, the Doors 1st album was nearly perfect.

  11. trigmogigmo

    Agreed to all.

    The Cars must’ve been gigging for a while and their first album is nearly perfect. The Police released their album pretty quickly but it didn’t break until a year later or something. They had so little material on their first tour that they played “Can’t Stand Losing You” as the opening song, and as the entire encore.

  12. I think they’re an excellent example, because like the Pretenders and the Cars, they came out at peak form, with no room to grow.

  13. misterioso

    The Doors, definitely, were the first band/lp that came to mind.

  14. misterioso

    Dire Straits?

  15. Television

  16. True, but if it matters to machinery’s parameters for discussion, like the Clash and Costello, I think the Doors grew beyond their excellent beginning.

  17. Joe Jackson’s “Look Sharp” is a great debut. He changed, but no necessarily for the better on some albums.

  18. diskojoe

    Although it’s not really my cuppa tea, I would have say Boston’s 1st album, especially since the general public thought so.

  19. Totally agree! Same goes for the appearance of another band I don’t like, Van Halen.

  20. trigmogigmo

    Yeah. First album is very consistent in style, and different from anything else. Really good!

  21. I like Strange Days better than The Doors, and they did change as time went on. I’m not quite certain they developed. I would argue that they never really “grew” beyond the first album.

    I also think Costello’s first album is NOT a fully formed debut. There are some classic songs, but the overall clunky feel of the band sounds like he was still trying to find his way out of the Pub. Watching the Detectives, added to the album when it was released here, was quantum leap beyond the stodgy sound of the rest of the album, and when he hooked up with the Attractions for This Year’s Model, it all but erased the sound of the first album if not the songs. That was one of the reasons the Hot Club debut which was broadcast in Philadelphia was such a sensation. WMMR had been playing “Waiting for the End of the World”, which was fresh but gave no clue of the full on assault of the Attractions.

  22. Van Halen was my pick!

  23. anyone ever notice that the first three songs on The Cars debut clock in the same time:

    1. “Good Times Roll” 3:44
    2. “My Best Friend’s Girl” 3:44
    3. “Just What I Needed” 3:44

    I know Motley Crue is mostly hated around here but their first album “Too Fast For Love” just smokes!

    Weezer’s first was pretty damn swell too

  24. King Crimson, Pavement, Big Star, Wire, Devo, the Soft Boys, Joy Division, REM, the Smiths, Living Colour, the Stone Roses, the La’s, Mogwai, Michael Penn, the Beta Band, the New Pornographers, and Interpol.

    Also, the Antlers. Putting them by themselves because they don’t get enough credit.

  25. Hospice wasn’t the first Antlers album. I was tired, oops.

  26. cherguevara

    Jeff Buckley’s first full band album is very fully formed, though what a shame and great loss that he pased away. The first Crowded House is a killer (though dated sounds) but understandable given the history of the guys in the band. As much as I’m not really a fan, have to give props to the first Pearl Jam album also, in this context.

    Despite this, I always liked those raw, gawky, first albums, ones that show character and potential.

  27. ladymisskirroyale


  28. ladymisskirroyale

    Have you been watching “High Fidelity” again? I was floored by your Beta Band reference. Touche!

    Since you are throwing in the Stone Roses, then I’ll add The Charlatans (UK) and Cibo Matto.

  29. ladymisskirroyale

    Just curious: How much of said Birth of Venus or Athena or whatever metaphor you want to use is really a reflection of GREAT production? Would those first albums be so good if their production had been different?

  30. Agreed on the Charlatans. I’ll also say Oasis, because their other albums were just regurgitating the badness of the first one.

  31. R.E.M. kind of set a pattern for a lot of bands now — issue an E.P. and then an album. “Chronic Town” was the bomb, but it was an EP.

    I will add some quickie New Wave Faves — ABC’s “Lexicon of Love” Duran Duran’s first album, and Aztec Camera’s “High Land, Hard Rain” — pretty strong out of the box.

  32. Ok — if we are going to go with Van Halen, I have to say Foreigner — although a few of those guys had been kicking around in other bands. They were really a b-list supergroup if you think about it. That would be a great independent post, maybe I’ll work on that — your favorite b-list supergroup!

  33. Crowed House is a great pick.

  34. ladymisskirroyale

    Mwaaah! We need to spin records together.

  35. Yeah, the first Aztec Camera album is pretty great, agreed.

  36. cherguevara

    Funny, I’ve been listening to “The Lexicon Of Love” a lot recently – especially at the gym. Trevor Horn was never going to make an album that was not fully-formed. That album is sick.

    I agree that High Land, Hard Rain is a really strong album, and I love Aztec Camera, but if you compare that album to the two that followed, it seems to me to be relatively raw. Knife is a very slick album, and a rare production credit for Mark Knopfler, and Love has that “gotta have a hit” mark of five different producers and an even higher amount of slickness.

    Did Duran Duran make any consistently good albums? The only one I know is Rio, and I feel like that’s a singles album.

  37. ladymisskirroyale

    Yup, in agreement on “High Land, Hard Rain.” Some of the best lyrics, ever. I like some of the later AC albums, as well, like “Frestonia.” But you’re right, the slick production and some of those lyrics make “Knife” embarrassing at times.

    As for Duran Duran, I always think of their Nagel covers and their singles. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to a whole album!

  38. ladymisskirroyale

    My other thought is that “Lexicon of Love,” despite it’s sonic awesomeness, is also one of the best post break up albums, ever. I recall it being very freeing to shout (albeit, in my car), “Who broke my heart, you did, you did!”

  39. misterioso

    “Fully formed,” egad, it may be all that but what a form. The best thing that can be said about the production is that it is “of its time,” which is also the worst thing that can be said about it. To tell you the truth, until I looked at a list of his production credits today, I had never fully realized how much he has to answer for.

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