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Pretenders: Break Up the Concrete

Old punk rockers — or, in this case, post-punks — never die, they just go country. On the Pretenders' first album since 2002's barely registering Loose Screw, Chrissie Hynde confronts middle age by revisiting the musical styles of the middle of the last century. After a woozy three-chord "Sleepwalk" intro, opener "Boots of Chinese Plastic" kicks open the door with some runaway-locomotive Sun Records rockabilly as Hynde seeks Buddha, Allah and Christ's example in putting paid to a pesky relationship — but can't help flashing back to that fancy footwear. Meanwhile, Concrete's most telling lyric comes on a lump-raising ballad Rosanne Cash somehow let slip through her fingers, "Love's a Mystery": "Lovers of today aren't like lovers of the past / They used to find a way to get a love affair to last." The past — both Hynde's Akron, Ohio, childhood and her band's 1984 LP Learning to Crawl — is likewise still present on piano-driven midtempo rocker "The Last Ride." A few of the ballads here are a bit too sleepy — unless you're in a Rick Nelson "Lonesome Town" sort of mood — but they're offset by punchy tracks like "Don't Cut Your Hair" and the sneering, Bo ­Diddley-esque title track that finds Hynde as feisty as ever. Concrete will resonate with anyone who first fell in love with Hynde's rootsy side on LTC's "Thumbelina" (and more so on the reissue's last-call lament "Tequila") — it's good to have her back on the twang gang.

 
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