Page last updated at 07:55 GMT, Monday, 1 June 2009 08:55 UK

Pretenders' rockabilly return

Pretenders (Photo: Jeff Bender)
Photo: Jeff Bender

By Tim Masters
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

"This is the way albums used to be made," says Chrissie Hynde, who with her trademark fringe and eyeliner has steered the Pretenders through three decades of guitar-laden pop.

She is referring to the new Pretenders album Break Up The Concrete (out in the UK on 1 June), which the band cranked out in under two weeks.

It's something of a classic; unmistakably the Pretenders - but shot through with a deep vein of rockabilly and country.

Opening track Boots of Chinese Plastic wouldn't sound out of place on the band's energetic 1980 debut.

"Every time anyone makes a record they want it to have energy, but usually it doesn't happen," says Hynde, "We recorded the album in 11 days so it's pretty high energy, it's very spontaneous and live."

While Hynde has barely changed since those early post-punk days, her band of musicians has been in a state of almost constant flux.


Chrissie Hynde - Photo: Dean Chalkley
Chrissie Hynde opened a vegan restaurant in Akron, Ohio in 2007. Photo: Dean Chalkley

And on this new album (which is packaged along with a Best of compilation), Hynde chose to work with a brand new team.

"This band feels more like the original band than any other line up I've had," explains Hynde.

"There was a chemistry there because we knew each other already. I went in and explained how the songs went. We recorded two tracks the first day and just kept going."

Break Up the Concrete is the first Pretenders record in the UK for seven years. Why the long wait?

"I was just doing other stuff," replies Hynde.

"Touring, mainly - I went to Brazil, met Moreno Veloso (Brazilian musician and singer) and we toured together and did some stuff there, which for some reason was never documented, which was a shame because it was one of the best musical things I've ever done."

It's obvious that Hynde is pretty laid back about being one of the most famous women in rock.

I have only one mission in life and that's to try and stop the wholesale slaughter and abuse of the entire animal kingdom
Chrissie Hynde

"I don't have any necessity to be in the public eye, I just like touring so it's good to have some new material - you don't want to be doing the same old stuff all the time."

She's also unaware that on the day of our interview the first single off the new album - Love's a Mystery - goes on sale as a digital-only release.

"I don't know how the business works - I've never been too interested in that aspect of it," says Hynde.

"I never read my press, I won't watch anything back. I should watch some stuff back because you can improve on what you're doing, but I just can't."

She pauses, and then drives the point home: "I can't and I won't."

Country roots

The Pretenders  - Photo: Jeff Bender
The Pretenders play six UK dates this summer Photo: Jeff Bender

Hynde admits that the American influence that permeates Break Up The Concrete is due, in part, to her spending more time in her home town of Akron, Ohio.

"I never listened to country music when I was growing up, I only listened to rock, so I'm a latecomer to it," she says. "You have to go back into the more rootsy stuff - like Jerry Lee Lewis - that kind of stuff, to see where the fire comes from."

She adds: "I've got a guitar player now who's 29, but if you met him you'd think it was 1979 - his favourite artist is Elvis Presley. And getting in the pedal steel player - that's a given."

'One mission'

Akron is also where Hynde opened a vegan restaurant almost two years ago.

It's on the subject of veganism and animal rights that she is most passionate. But would she ever consider going into politics?

"Never - I'm just not interested. I'm a rock singer. I have only one mission in life and that's to try and stop the wholesale slaughter and abuse of the entire animal kingdom," says Hynde.

"It's me against the meat-eaters. It always has been - it's been the same agenda right from day one. Nothing's changed - I'll stay on this path for the rest of my life."

But how much about the welfare of animals comes through in her song-writing?

"I think if you're looking for it you'll see it. My philosophy has always been the same. I never wrote Meat is Murder. I should do though, I just haven't got round to it."

'Protest song'

By contrast, the message in the title song on the new album is blatantly obvious.

"Thwak it! Crack it! Lineback it!/ Break up the concrete" exhorts Hynde over a frantic beat.

"It's about the world, mainly about the USA," explains Hynde. "Get rid of the concrete - it's very literal. It's an aesthetic protest song."

Neil Young once said of Chrissie Hynde that she'll be "rocking till she drops". It's a line that's been quoted back at her a lot.

"I don't know and I don't care," says Hynde in response. "I'll do this this year and I'll see what I feel like doing next year. If I feel like going to Brazil and hanging out, I'll do that...

"I don't have any big master plan. I can't believe I got away with it this long."

The Pretenders Best/Break Up The Concrete is out 1 June. The band also play a number of UK dates in June and July.

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