Thursday, April 15, 2010

Crawl, don't run

Transplanting herself from her native tumbleweed town of Akron, Ohio to the burgeoning blast that was the up and coming London Punk scene in the late 70's, Chrissie Hynde was, as the saying goes, in the right place, at the right time. Tiring of her journalistic chores behind a typewriter, and behind the scene, she did the next best thing and formed her own band named after an old American doo-wop group, and became part of the explosive Punk scene.

The Pretenders struck a nerve in the melee of a mostly alpha male-dominated scene, hooking up with the talented Brit guitarmeister James Honeyman-Scott, bassist Pete Farndon, who both lamentably have left us for the great gig in the sky, and drummer Martin Chambers, to produce some of the most off-kilter, yet thoroughly engaging sometimes Poppish, with a nervous Punk edge-like sound, that divulged a talent beyond the usual three-chord approach of their snarly, piss-drunk peers.

Having gotten past the passing of Jimmy and Pete, Hynde trooped on with pick-up sessioners Billy Bremner, Rockpile guitarist and of Brinsley Schwarz fame, and Big Country bassist Tony Butler, filling in temporarily; until Chrissie finally settled on guitarist Robbie McIntosh and bassist Malcolm Foster, rounding out the Pretenders line-up for 1983's Learning To Crawl.

Doing away with the weird and wirey time signatures that gave those early Pretenders cuts from their first("The Phone Call" and "Tattooed Love Boys") and second ("The Adultress") albums that frenetic, oft times, paranoid appeal, Hynde concentrated on a more conventional and personal, method of songwriting for Crawl.

Showing off a different angle to her talent, Chrissie, together with Bremner and Butler, churned out two scintillating cuts that showcased this new approach, featured succinctly on "Back On The Chain Gang," with Bremner's resounding guitarwork ringing and chiming, with Butler's solidly elastic basswork grounding "My City Was Gone" right in the gut.

McIntosh and Foster contribute equally as magnificent as their predecessors, rocking out on "Middle Of The Road," Chrissie's ode to pre-midlife crisis ("I'm not the cat I used to be, I got a kid, I'm thirty-three, baybehhhh..") as well as rave-ups like "Thumbellina" and the straight low-brow rocker "Time The Avenger." Her choice of cover, The Persuaders' "Thin Line (Between Love And Hate)," featuring Squeeze's Paul Carrack on piano, showed a newfound maturity borne out of motherhood, and her stormy relationship with head Kink Ray Davies.

But the most engaging cut on Crawl has got to be "Show Me," a heartfelt ode to her newborn, that's both cautionary tale and hopefully inspiring prayer.

Welcome to the human race
With its wars, disease and brutality
You with your innocence and grace
Restore some pride and dignity
To a world in decline

There's been tons of creative output from Hynde that followed, yet Learning To Crawl was a sort of starting point; a touchstone for a unique talent yet flourishing in brash, fruitful abandon.


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