Pretenders - Break Up The Concrete/The Best Of...
A quick reissue of last year’s Break Up The Concrete with a neat trick of attaching a greatest hits disc as a bonus. There can be few record collections which would not be enhanced by the addition of some Pretenders classics. Led by Chrissie Hynde the Pretenders were one of the ultimate singles bands of the 80’s, alongside the Jam, Blondie and Adam and the Ants. They were essential listening and damn, were they sexy – even for a ten year old urchin like me who had no idea what sex even was. Just the way Hynde delivered her lines was enough to do strange things to my conkers and for that she will never be forgotten.
Their appeal went beyond those of trouser busting sexuality and they had the rock ‘n’ roll class of the Stones in their guitar licks, best exemplified on Back on the Chain Gang. An impressive feat for a band from Hereford, well impressive until guitarist James Honeyman-Scott and bassist Pete Farndon both died from drug overdoses in quick succession in ‘82/83.
Listening to all these hits in one sitting is powerful stuff and, in that respect, perhaps it isn’t such a clever idea to package the new album together with their bona-fide classics. The new stuff just can’t compete can it? Or can it?
No, of course it can’t but it is closer than you might think. The Hynde voice is still as great as it ever was and the band she’s put together are serious musicians but there’s no way that the new songs can realistically compete with some of the best pop singles of all time. There’s plenty to admire here, from the Rockabilly chops of opener Boots of Chinese Plastic, which tips a cheeky nod to Bob Dylan whilst tearing from the speakers like the Stray Cats, to the countrified sadness of One Thing Never Changed the album engages the listener completely. Faced with the choice of the loin stirring Brass in Pocket or the professionally competent Don’t Lose Faith in Me however and the hits cd will be the one you always return to.