Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Great Pretender

You'd be hard-pressed to find a bigger critic of the music industry than yours truly. While the major labels never seem to stop whining about their shrinking profits, a huge music fan like myself sees nothing but offensively overpriced concert tickets and compact discs that have yet to drop in price nearly 20 years later. Throw in the repeated format changes that have left me buying the same album three or four times (vinyl, cassette, CD and now the simultaneously dreaded and beloved remastered CD) and I'm this close to arguing that stealing music off the Internet is my god-given right. (Don't make me launch into my spiel about how it's the label making the money, not the artist.)

So here I was yesterday at Circuit City yesterday having my camera looked at by a technician when I couldn't help wandering into the CD section (a veritable wasteland since CDs are for "old folks," you know). Suddenly, there they were on the shelf: the Pretenders' third and fourth albums, expanded and remastered. True, I'd already shelled out 40 bucks when their classic eponymous debut and brilliant sophomore effort were given the royal treatment back in '06 (each of those were two-disc collections and the rare demos were worth the price). But after looking at the reissued "Learning to Crawl" and "Get Close," I quickly realized none of the bonus tracks were anything I didn't either already have or particularly want. As I attempted to put them back on the shelf -- reminding myself that I could probably count the number of times I'd listened to either of these albums in the past five years on one hand and the CDs I have of them are in more than OK condition -- I realized it wasn't really the music industry's fault for making me want to buy these things so badly. Sure, the enhanced sound and occasional extra features are their way of upping the ante. But just looking at those two familiar album jackets I knew that deep inside me I'm just lonesome for a place I know. That what I'm really buying is a piece of my childhood. A time when MTV actually played music videos and I actually knew who all of the artists on the Billboard Charts were. (These days I don't think I could name one, unless James Taylor's new album -- of old songs -- is still floating around.) A time when I could literally spend hours combing through stacks of records (without back pain). A time when going to a concert was something that was planned out and organized for months in advance. (I debuted my Limahl two-tone 'do at a Pretenders concert, after all.) And those tickets cost less than today's "convenience" fees.

(click stubs for maximum awesomeness)

Perhaps my admission is something music marketing types are on to and they're deliberately preying upon nostalgia geeks like me. But deep down I don't really care. For those few minutes when I'm buying these shiny "new" albums, I like pretending.

"Learning to Crawl": Produced by Chris Thomas, the Pretenders' hit 1984 album includes the all-time classics "Back on the Chain Gang, "Middle Of The Road," "My City Was Gone," and the underrated"Show Me" Also features their memorable cover of the Persuaders' 1971 hit "Thin Line Between Love And Hate" and Hynde's gorgeous contemporary Christmas classic "2000 Miles." For those wondering, the seven bonus tracks --two previously unissued -- include live versions of "My City Was Gone" and "Money" (from 1985's US Festival!) as well as three Denmark Street demos, including "I Hurt You" and "When I Change My Life."

"Get Close": The band's 1986 features the Top 10 hit "Don't Get Me Wrong" and the standouts "How Much Did You Get For Your Soul," "Hymn To Her," "I Remember You" and the Hendrix cover "Room Full Of Mirrors." Six bonus tracks include the previously unreleased "Dance (Take 1)" and "Don't Get Me Wrong" (live), as well as an alternate version of "Hold A Candle To This," a remix of "Tradition of Love," and "Thumbelina" (live).

1 comment:

Moose said...

"Learning To Crawl" was sheer brilliance. Considering that the heart of the band had been ripped out with Farndon and Honeyman-Scott's deaths after "II", it's amazing that it ever saw the light of day, let alone contain so many classic Pretender cuts. "My City Was Gone" still sounds fresh, "Middle Of The Road" rocks steady, and "2000 Miles" might be one of the 3 best rock-era Christmas songs.
Having said all that, I still think "II" is terribly underappreciated and overlooked. Go back and listen to "The Adultress" or "Bad Boys Get Spanked" all over again, and you remember how Chrissie seduced an entire generation with those bangs and that sneer.