posted on June 10, 2009 19:00
A review of the album 'Break Up The Concrete' by The Pretenders
Review Snapshot: Though it leans more towards blues and country than its predecessors, the ninth album by Chrissie Hynde et al. is still recognizably safe classic rock. But slipping it into a Greatest Hits package feels needlessly defeatist.
The Cluas Verdict? 4.5 out of 10
This is odd: our review copy of the new album by The Pretenders comes in a double CD with a Best Of. What’s more, the hits compilation is Disc 1 of this set and the new album is Disc 2. You’d think it’d be a brave record company exec who’d propose this to Chrissie Hynde.
Do you really need us to review The Pretenders’ hits? Surely you already know from constant airplay those smart late-‘70s rockers, radio-friendly ‘80s poppers and blustery ‘90s stadium ballads. (We’ll only point out that this compilation doesn’t include a catchy 1999 cover of The Divinyls’ ‘Human’, which is a pity.)
So, the new album, then. For the most part, ‘Break Up The Concrete’ is unremarkable blues-tinted MOR rock. Hynde, forever in skinny jeans and black t-shirt, still pulls the same rawk chick shapes but with a hint of nostalgic wistfulness on gentle country rock numbers like ‘You Didn’t Have To’, ‘One Thing Never Changed’ and ‘Love’s A Mystery’ (“Lovers of today/Aren’t like lovers of the past”). It’s strange and slightly sad to now associate Hynde, one of rock’s great icon(oclast)s, with concepts like ‘nostalgia’ and ‘gentle country rock’. But then, you can hardly expect iconoclasm from someone who subordinates her new album to a Greatest Hits disc in the same package.
There are a couple of interesting moments on this record all the same. Opener ‘Boots Of Chinese Plastic’ is a rousing bit of rockabilly, a sound that suits Hynde’s attitude and voice. (Unfortunately, it’s let down by naff verses about Buddha, Hari Krishna, Allah and Jesus.) And ‘Almost Perfect’ is an acoustic bossa nova groove where Hynde sounds jazzy and (almost) fresh – could that be for her a new route worth investigating?
Anyway, Hynde would do well to heed her album title: please destroy that dull, grey rock. And next time let your new album stand or fall on its merits rather than hide it under the oldies.