From the era when it seemed every band was named after a fabric, this angular indie gem was, for my money, one of the very best singles of the nascent Britpop era. Precipitating the self-referential indulgences of later bands, but not with the aura of smugness that pervaded the Albarn-esque dahn-tha-dawgs mockernee, the legend that is no-surname Lawrence (from alternative gods Felt) spews forth a classic.
The best way to describe this is 'miserable glam' - a great Mud-style beat clashes perfectly with Lawrence's scathing vocals of how he hates everything about so-called classic rock: "Spector's wall, knock it down; Jerry Lee, run him out of town." He ends up extolling the virtues of MOR and, in a stroke of utter pop genius, segues his tune into Middle Of The Road's hit Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep as sung by the kind of girl who populated the 70's Top Of The Pops LPs.
Who could forget the rousing "woo-hooa-a-hooas" that helped define the Pretenders' 1984 smash hit "Middle of the Road"? In a decade that saw synthesizer-oriented pop music arriving on U.S. soil from England, singer/guitarist Chrissie Hynde and bandmates tear it up on this classic example of pure, unadulterated rock music. The Pretenders' offering successfully maintains a formulaic rock pattern, with drums that beat on at a driving frenetic 4/4 pace and guitar riffs that induce foot stomping by the most conservative crowd. By the time the harmonica solo kicks in toward the track's end, "Middle of the Road" has worked itself up into such a musical romp that it challenges anyone to remain sitting down. There is no technical or instrumental trickery to be found here, no "secret sauce"; the song is very much in your face. Its rollicking music and lyrics that paint a picture of a journey make anyone want to hop into the car and take off for the open road. "Middle of the road, is trying to find me/ I'm standing in the middle of life with my plans behind me." You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who didn't identify with that sentiment. The Pretenders zeroed in on one of humankind's most basic, secret desire — to get up and go — and backed it with an equally driven musical arrangement. And that's what makes this recording a timeless classic.
from Learning To Crawl (Sire 2-23980), available on CD
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version of Middle Of The Road