Learning to Crawl (Sire/Real/Rhino)


Get Close (Sire/Real/Rhino)

Impossibly, after half her band died of drug overdoses – she'd had intimate relationships with both guitarists – Chrissie Hynde cut the only other album that ever mattered in the Pretenders' catalog. 1984's Learning to Crawl bounces back from the sophomore slump of Pretenders II, and with only one bad song ("I Hurt You"), rivals 1980's eponymous debut for perfection. Crawl's sonically boosted reissue neutralizes "Hurt" with its superior demo as one of seven bonus tracks, including a strutting cover of "Money" from the 1983 US Festival. Otherwise, Ms. Hynde's unlikely rebound still kicks off with Martin Chambers' big beat on "Middle of the Road," which glides into her best song since "Brass in Pocket," the déjà-vu-inducing "Back on the Chain Gang." There's no letting up: marching "Time the Avenger," churning "Watching the Clothes," disarming "Kid" rewrite "Show Me," and the amphetamine two-step of "Thumbelina." Billy Bremner's guitar solo on the working class "My City Was Gone" is an architectural bauble on par with the song itself. "Thin Line Between Love and Hate" and "2000 Miles" assuage as if they'd been written centuries before. 1986's Get Close, on the other hand, is the fall from grace, minus even Chambers. Hynde's compositions sound like Laundromat fare – a total wash – save for hits "Don't Get Me Wrong," essential; motherly "Hymn to Her;" and Hendrix by way of Tangerine Dream retread "Room Full of Mirrors." Apart from that trio, the album's dependence on keyboards recalls Miami Vice. Thirty minutes of bonus tracks almost save the endeavor, including steely B-side "World Within Worlds" and a pair of peppy live tracks recorded in Austin, 1987.

(Learning to Crawl) ****

(Get Close) **

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