BREAK UP THE CONCRETE by the Pretenders

The Pretenders are back, and they rock as well as ever. Break Up the Concrete is a stong, subtle, and very good album with lots of heart.

There are lots of types of rock and roll on this album -- from rockabilly to garage rock to slow love songs -- and the Pretenders handle them all with grace. Lead singer Chrissy Hynde is still the linchpin of the band, and her vocals tackle every song with passion and beauty. The lyrics are nicely done, whether it's the tongue-in-cheek stay rebellious message of "Don't Cut Your Hair" ("don't cut it/don't chop it/it's like a bomb/if you got it don't drop it") to the social commentary of the title track to the disturbing "Almost Perfect."

I fear for the success of Break Up the Concrete because there's no one song that stands out as a radio-friendly single or defining track. The whole album holds together very well, and listening to it in one sitting will make you realize how talented this band is. Hynde, like Joan Jett, has proved that being an '80s singer doesn't mean replaying the same songs from then. I can't wait to set aside the time to go through Break Up the Concrete again, and again, and again...

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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