Uncut - p.1104 stars out of 5
-- "[T]he yearning, world-weary drawl of Hynde's voice still sounds sublime."
The Pretenders: Chrissie Hynde (vocals, guitar); Robbie McIntosh (guitar); Malcolm Foster (bass); Martin Chambers (drums, background vocals).
Additional personnel: Billy Bremner (guitar); Paul Carrack (piano, background vocals); Andrew Bodner (bass, background vocals); Tony Butler (bass).
Recorded at AIR Studios, London, England.
Personnel: James Honeyman-Scott (vocals, guitar, keyboards); Chrissie Hynde, Robbie McIntosh , Billy Bremner (vocals, guitar); Paul Carrack (vocals, piano); Andrew Bodnar (vocals, bass guitar); Martin Chambers (vocals, drums); Malcolm Foster, Pete Farndon (vocals); Tony Butler (bass guitar).
Recording information: AIR Recording Studios, London, England; Air Studios, London, England.
At the beginning of the Pretenders LEARNING TO CRAWL Chrissie Hynde sings, "I'm not the kind I used to be, I've got a kid, I'm 33, baby!" The bravado in the way she delivered that line, however, couldn't disguise the fact that she was also dealing with the back-to-back drug overdoses of two of her founding bandmates (one an ex-lover). The resulting album, unsurprisingly, deals at least in part with pain and loss. ("Back on the Chain Gang" LEARNING TO CRAWL's first single, was in fact an explicit memorial).
Given the circumstances surrounding the making of the album, it's amazing that on balance it's the band's most rounded effort. This is due to Hynde's particularly strong songwriting, and a standout performance by new guitarist Robbie MacIntosh, who compliments Hynde's material adroitly. High points include "2000 Miles," probably the best rock Christmas song ever and the enormously exciting "Middle of the Road" (if you don't move when you hear it, consult your primary care provider). Also noteworthy are "Time the Avenger," (among other things, a witty homage to the Outsiders' 60s punker "Time Won't Let Me") and "My City Was Gone," a sad and beautiful tribute to her hometown (Akron, Ohio).