Friday, 19 October 2018

The Pretenders - Learning To Crawl (1984)


  

Released January 1984

Recorded at AIR Studos, London

After the tragic loss of Pete Farndon and James Honeyman-Scott from the band’s original line-up, Chrissie Hynde hired some more musicians and somehow got herself together and, remarkably, came up with this impressive album. Personally, I find it much superior to the muffled, patchy “Pretenders II”.

“Middle Of The Road” kicks off the album with a real power and rock vibrancy. The first thing you notice is how much improved the sound is on this album from the muffled one on “Pretenders II”. Due to this and the level of attack on the song, you feel The Pretenders are back, alive and kicking. The hit single, the appositely-titled “Back On The Chain Gang” is also truly excellent, with an addictive, catchy riff and a singalong chorus. It is one of their best ever singles. It sounds awful to say, but this line up sounds much better than the original one (maybe it is just the production).

If any further proof were needed about the fuller, warmer sound on this album it comes with the rocking “Time The Avenger” with its excellent pounding drums and rumbling bass. It has to be said, however, that “Watching The Clothes” (about sitting in a launderette) is not the best song they ever did. Its lyrics are wryly amusing though, about “delicates” and “final rinse”. “Show Me” is melodic and solid, though, and gets things back on track.

“Thumbelina” is a quirky, upbeat rhythmic rockabilly/zydeco beat song that appears to be written for Chrissie Hynde’s daughter in places, but there are darker parts to it as well, as is often the case with Pretenders songs, a cynicism about the human condition is never far from the surface. This is continued in the bleak outlook of “My City Was Gone”, about Hynde returning to Ohio, sung over an insistent bass and drum chugging rhythm. It is one of the best cuts on the album. The bass and drum connection is taut and solid here from original drummer Martin Chambers and new bassist Malcolm Foster.

The Atlantic soul classic “Thin Line Between Love And Hate” is covered impressively. Hynde’s voice is excellent on this one. “I Hurt You” is a heavy chugger with a muscular riff. “2000 Miles” has been somewhat hijacked as a Christmas song, due to its mentions of the festive day, so, for that reason I never play it outside of that time of year. Chrissie Hynde actually wrote it after the loss of Honeyman-Scott.

You know, I think I prefer this album and the next one, “Get Close”, to the more critically-acclaimed first two. They are both excellent albums and sound much better too.

B-

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