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The Pretenders: Loose Screw

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The Pretenders

Album: Loose Screw
Label: Artemis

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Her band The Pretenders has been in existence longer than a lot of current pop stars have been alive, but Chrissie Hynde has never made music like someone seeking a gold watch. Loose Screw captures the group's classic mix of grit and sentiment, illustrating how to make a good album that neither ignores the past nor shamelessly apes the present. The rocking "Fools Must Die" wouldn't sound out of place on The Pretenders' first record, but that has much to do with Hynde's unfailing ability to sound, at any age, like a take-no-prisoners rock star. And "Fools Must Die" isn't even the hardest segment on the album. Loose kicks off with the rough-and-tumble "Lie To Me," a song about love when it runs out of ways to forgive, but the track's toughness does little to obscure its hidden tenderness. Carrying on the tradition of many fine Pretenders ballads, "Nothing Breaks Like A Heart" joins a yearning Hynde vocal to a dub-influenced backing track, which seems like as natural a fit as the soul chorus of "The Losing." The album shows other reggae influences, which may not seem logical, but still work. And why shouldn't Hynde indulge whatever whims she likes? She earned the right a long time ago, and she renews it by continuing to put out smart, memorable pop records when she could simply rest on her laurels. Screw closes with a cover of The All Seeing I's "Walk Like A Panther," a song co-written by Pulp's Jarvis Cocker, and including the boast "To keep up with me, you've got to walk like a panther tonight." Tough talk, but Hynde backs it up yet again.