Discography

The Pretender

1976

Song Lyrics

The most striking songs on The Pretender are concerned with death and parenthood, subjects not necessarily unrelated. Often, his apocalyptic imagery is merely a way of getting at his feelings of mortality-the crumbling towers of Babylon in "The Fuse" are as much about the inevitable erosion of time as anything else. And parenthood is seen as a symbol of the middle-class life he has experienced: it's both a joy and a trap. In "Daddy's Tune," he reaches out to his father, long ago alienated, in order to share with him the turmoil of advising his son in "The Only Child." In a way, this is his ultimate dilemma-to be a father, or to be a son. And his ultimate triumph is to realize and reconcile the parent and the child in each of us.
"The Pretender" is a breakthrough. Browne has always had traces of cynicism in his writing, but about romance he has remained firm. Love can make a difference, all of his songs say. But "The Pretender" is a song about why even that won't work, in the long run. In its most shattering moment, the hero imagines what he and his dream-lover will do, if ever they manage to meet.

Dave Marsh, Rolling Stone