You, me, the music, and me.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

THE PRETENDERS Learning to Crawl

Sire 92 39801 (1983)

Though it was only their third full-length album, by the time Learning to Crawl was released in 1983 it felt like the Pretenders had been around a lot longer than they actually had. Since the release of their critically-acclaimed first album in 1980, the band had suffered numerous hardships, including a poorly-received second album, a career-threatening injury for drummer Martin Chambers, and the deaths of two founding members. Amazingly, the group not only survived, but managed to put out one of the best albums of their career, and one of the most poignant and heartfelt rock albums ever.

"Middle of the Road" sets the tone for the rest of the album; it's a rollicking paean to aging and normalcy, with head Pretender Chrissie Hynde both celebrating and railing against her newfound domesticity ("I'm not the cat I used to be/I got a kid, I'm thirty-three"). "Back on the Chain Gang" and "Time the Avenger" develop this theme further with their tales of past lovers and lost youth ("Thought that time was on your side/Now it's time the avenger"). The beautiful "Show Me" is a love song to love itself and features dreamy ascending guitar patterns courtesy of Hynde and guitarist Robbie McIntosh. Finally, "2000 Miles" might be the best modern Christmas song ever written (it came on the radio last December 25 as I was pulling into my parents' driveway. Yeah, it brought a tear to my eye... so what? Okay, maybe a couple of tears... )

I bought this album when it came out (I was 14) and it keeps getting better and more resonant with each passing year. In the end, Learning to Crawl proves that growing up doesn't necessarily equal growing old, and becoming maturer and wiser doesn't always equal getting boring.


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