The Pretenders – Learning To Crawl – Awesome on the Right German Pressing

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  • The first Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning copy to hit the site in over a year – we’ve never heard it sound better
  • Both sides of this (very specific) German pressing were richer, clearer and more energetic than any of the others we played
  • With Robbie McIntosh having joined the band this is first and foremost a guitar rock record; his jangly, grungy riffs drive every song
  • 5 Stars: “While Hynde hardly held back in her emotionally potent songwriting in the Pretenders’ early work, on Learning to Crawl there’s a gravity to her lyrics that blended with her tough but wiry melodic sense and streetwise intelligence to create a set of truly remarkable tunes…”

This is where Chrissie Hynde matured into a top class songwriter; every track is good and many are brilliant. With Robbie McIntosh having joined the band, this is first and foremost a guitar rock record; his jangly, grungy riffs drive every song. Great songs and great guitar work — what more do you need in a rock record?

Think of Middle of the Road — everything that’s good about this band on this album is there in that song: it’s uptempo, with a driving beat, a rock solid rhythm section and a beautifully distorted guitar out front and high up in the mix.

German Pressings? Why Not British?

We discovered that only the best German pressings convey the energy and enthusiasm of the band while avoiding the grunge, flatness and hardness that make the typical pressing all but unlistenable at loud volumes.

Isn’t this a British band that just happens to be led by an American? And wasn’t the album produced by the clearly British Chris Thomas and recorded at George Martin’s AIR studios in London? How is it possible that the best German pressings consistently sound better than the best British pressings?

Your guess is as good as mine. And, if you stop to think about it, who in his right mind would think that any answer they might give to such a question is anything other than a guess?

But that’s not the half of it. It’s not simply the fact that the Germans seem to be the only ones able to work their magic on this title. Most German pressings are not nearly as good sounding as this one. It is only this specific German pressing that does everything right. It has won every shootout for the last five years if that tells you anything.

What amazing sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Analog Magic that was on the tapes – even as late as 1983
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments (and effects!) having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear everything we describe above.

What to Listen For

In the chorus of Time the Avenger, the better copies do not get as harmonically distorted, edgy and hard as most. The best really “bloom,” but they are few and far between.

 

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Middle of the Road
Back on the Chain Gang
Time the Avenger
Watching the Clothes
Show Me

Side Two

Thumbelina
My City Was Gone
Thin Line Between Love and Hate
I Hurt You
2000 Miles

AMG Review

… Hynde created a masterpiece. While Hynde hardly held back in her emotionally potent songwriting in the Pretenders’ early work, on Learning to Crawl there’s a gravity to her lyrics that blended with her tough but wiry melodic sense and streetwise intelligence to create a set of truly remarkable tunes…

Three albums into her recording career, Chrissie Hynde found herself having to put the past to bed and carve out a new beginning for herself with Learning to Crawl, but she pulled it off with a striking mixture of courage, strength, and great rock & roll; with the exception of the instant-classic debut album, it’s the Pretenders’ finest work.