The Pretty Things – The Pretty Things/Get the Picture? (1965; 2011 reissue)

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Formed in 1963, the Pretty Things from Kent, England were one of the leading lights of the British beat boom. Possessing a natural instinct and awareness for the greasy, grubby style of music they elected to pursue, the band made peers such as the Rolling Stones, the Animals, and the Kinks seem rather polite by comparison.

Not only did the Pretty Things sound rabid and raunchy, but they looked the part as well. Sporting super-long hair, hanging down to almost their shoulders, the band further dressed any sloppy old way they pleased. There were no cute matching uniforms for the Pretty Things, and they seldom flashed smiles at the camera. Dark, brooding and scowling, they were a scary sight to behold.

Although the Pretty Things were an instant hit in Europe, they failed to garner the recognition they deserved and within a couple of years they were basically yesterday’s news. What’s even sadder is that they were virtually ignored in America, and it’s only recently that their genius has been acknowledged on a widespread scale.

The Pretty Things may have started out singing the blues, but as was the case with the majority of bands back then, they eventually expanded their horizons and began experimenting with a riot of sonic hues. Running the gamut from orchestrated pop to a psychedelic opera to slashing hard rock to slick new wave, the band appropriated these musical fashions with pure hearts and minds, resulting in an impressive body of work. And the Pretty Things are still going strong today.

But for now, we’re focusing on the Snapper label’s resurrection of the group’s first two albums, both initially released in 1965 and set for reissue on Tuesday …

The band’s debut effort, simply called The Pretty Things, perches high on the hill as a sterling example of British inflected blues rock. Shockingly primitive but effective, the disc reveals the group to be able interpreters as they revisit Bo Diddley (“She’s Fine She’s Mine,” “Mama Keep Your Big Mouth Shut” and “Roadrunner”) and Chuck Berry (“Don’t Lie To Me” and “Oh Baby Doll”) with unlimited amounts of nerve and verve. The band’s own material is just as convincingly good, with “13 Chester Street” and “Unknown Blues” firmly exposing their raw talent and naked emotions. Ignited by a mass of clunky guitars, thrashing drum tricks, shrilly harmonicas, and grunting vocals, The Pretty Things elevates the blues and rock and roll to a totally unique and literally electrifying plane.

Hot on the heels of The Pretty Things arrived Get the Picture?, which proved to be an ideal companion to its predecessor. The vision stayed the same, but the songs were rounder and fuller. Not a dud in the bunch, with original tunes like “Midnight to Six Man,” “Can’t Stand the Pain,” “Buzz the Jerk,” and “Me Needing You” reaping approval as select nuggets to be savored. Professing no relation to the drug, the shuffling grooves of “LSD,” which actually refers to English money, kicks in as another utterly cool song on the disc, along with the romping title track.

Attacking their tunes with fangs bared and instruments cooking, the Pretty Things give it their all, and then some, here on these albums. Shivering and shaking at the seams with a strain of soulful blues power that was novel at the time, The Pretty Things and Get the Picture? were revolutionary ventures, and are therefore, bonafide milestones.

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