Album of the Week: Pretenders, Break Up the Concrete


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 mid-20th 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 Roseanne 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 find Hynde is feisty as ever. Concrete will resonate with anyone who first fell in love with Hynde's rootsy side on LTC's "Thumbelina" (and moreso on the reissue's last-call lament "Tequila"). It's good to have her back on the twang gang.

With American Bang, 8 p.m. Saturday, February 28, at House of Blues, 1204 Caroline, 888-402-5837 or

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray