The Pretenders: Break Up The Concrete

By: Dennis Cook

It starts so promisingly that one almost thinks Chrissie Hynde is back upstairs changing tires with those tattooed love boys. The speedy rockabilly of "Boots Of Chinese Plastic" is the liveliest thing she's come up with in years. Unfortunately, that restless energy only returns in fits & spurts on Break Up The Concrete (released October 7 on Shangri-La Music). Much of this ("The Nothing Maker," "Love's A Mystery," "The Last Ride") is the sort of room temperature, popcorn movie soundtrack fare The Pretenders have been putting out for a long time (trust me, you will hear a few of these in future Kate Hudson turds). But, the good news is the working class answer to Patti Smith has been goosed by some wild hair and "Don't Cut Your Hair" and the title cut harness the same pounding rock 'n' roll as "Chinese Plastic," and she gives further reason to smile with "Don't Lose Faith In Me," a slow, soulful burn that rivals recent Bettye LaVette, and a T-Bone Burnett style shuffling rumination called "Almost Perfect," a ball of hushed innuendo that develops a low groove. Thing is nothing here is unpleasant; Hynde is too much of a pro to allow that, and if anything she's too careful. It's when her voice cracks, when the gal we first met alongside the still-missed James Honeyman-Scott in 1979 resurfaces that Concrete succeeds best. She's always had a mix of The Shirelles and The Stooges, punk rock and pub rock, and that slap n' kiss dynamic remains, just wrinkled and softened a good deal by time.

Here's the video for "Boots of Chinese Plastic."

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[Published on: 10/16/08]

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