The Pretenders: Break Up The Concrete

Music Reviews The Pretenders
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The Pretenders: <em>Break Up The Concrete</em>

Chrissie goes country on quickie album that delivers

The fact that this country-influenced album from Chrissie Hynde and her new backing band was recorded in just 10 days might lead you to think Break Up The Concrete was a rush job. (Consider this lyric from “Love’s a Mystery”: “You get the feeling you’re onstage and badly unrehearsed.”) It’s true that the record is peppered with small flaws, like a cleared throat, or the drummer’s messed-up count-off or someone self-admonishing, “O.K., I’m gettin’ worse and worse now.” But these imperfections are endearing, adding extra texture to this set of rollicking roots rock and mournful pedal-steel ballads. Hynde’s voice is as recognizable as ever—all slow vibrato, unrestrained high notes and staccato alto. But the songs won’t be seamless additions to any Pretenders best-of album; they have a twangier feel. “Almost Perfect” is minor-key sexy with a creaky sound like an old metal swing that makes the song seem like a precursor to haunting U.K. band Bat For Lashes. The title track makes creative use of the Bo Diddley beat and impresses with its percussive “thwack it, crack it” lyrics. Staunch admirers of the traditional Pretenders sound might not like this record, but I say, “Yee-haw!”