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Loose Screw

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Album Review

The Pretenders' eighth studio album, Loose Screw, is their first on an independent label after 20 years with Warner, but the switch hasn't made any difference in the group's style. It may have seemed to listeners that later albums softened the band's mainstream rock sound in an attempt to restore commerciality, especially when professional songwriters Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly began writing with group leader Chrissie Hynde. (They co-wrote the Pretenders' comeback hit single, 1994's "I'll Stand by You.") But in fact, the Pretenders have always mixed hard rock songs with ballads, and while Steinberg and Kelly are still onboard for two songs here ("Nothing Breaks Like a Heart" and "Saving Grace") that are among the album's more melancholy and melodic, slow tunes, there are also plenty of tough, unsentimental, guitar-driven songs in the traditional Pretenders mold. Lead guitarist Adam Seymour, in the band since 1994, has mastered the style of the band's original guitarist, James Honeyman-Scott, a mixture of jarring chord fragments and chiming sounds. Drummer Martin Chambers continues to keep strict tempos and to favor bits of reggae-like syncopation, especially in the slower songs. But one still listens to a Pretenders album for Hynde's throaty, murmuring alto and lacerating observations, and she fulfills expectations immediately with the harsh leadoff track, "Lie to Me," beginning a song series devoted to romantic conflict and recrimination. Some of that criticism is self-directed, notably on "Complex Person" and "I Should Of," two appealing songs and could-be-hits, that is, if Hynde didn't deliberately drop an expletive into the lyrics of each. A major label probably would have argued against that sort of thing, and maybe there's the difference in being on an indie.


Formed: 1978 in London, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Over the years, the Pretenders became a vehicle for guitarist/vocalist Chrissie Hynde's songwriting, yet it was a full-fledged band when it was formed in the late '70s. With their initial records, the group crossed the bridge between punk/new wave and Top 40 pop more than any other band, recording a series of hard, spiky singles that were also melodic and immediately accessible. Hynde was an invigorating, sexy singer who bent the traditional male roles of rock & roll to her own liking, while guitarist...
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