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A Pretender's Aching, 'Concrete' Return

Chrissie Hynde has gathered up a new batch of Pretenders — including the great drummer Jim Keltner — and wants you to know she's still up for some adventure, anger and lust. Her new album, Break Up The Concrete, has the forward momentum of music that needed to be made — melodies and sentiments that Hynde sounds eager to get out into the world.

Hynde draws upon everything from rockabilly to Bob Dylan. In the stand-out track "Rosalee," she reaches back to electric blues to issue an aching shout-out to a lover and a friend.

This is an album made by someone who's seen and experienced a lot but isn't looking back with regret or nostalgia. Every song is about living in the present and using experience as a strength, dealing with people — be they lovers or enemies — with a ruthless straightforwardness. The collection's theme isn't as simplistic as "honesty is the best policy" — Hynde is too sly and aware of her own artistic deviousness for that. But the music is an impeccable demonstration of why holing up in a studio and knocking out an unruly album in a matter of days can yield music that just might hold up to years of thrills and chills.

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Ken Tucker reviews rock, country, hip-hop and pop music for Fresh Air. He is a cultural critic who has been the editor-at-large at Entertainment Weekly, and a film critic for New York Magazine. His work has won two National Magazine Awards and two ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards. He has written book reviews for The New York Times Book Review and other publications.