Break Up the Concrete is the first Pretenders album since 1990s Packed! where Chrissie Hynde wrote almost every song on the album on her own, but unlike the generally listless Packed!, Break Up the Concrete is an effective rebirth for Hynde, a reconnection to her roots undoubtedly effected by her return to her native Ohio. This may be a stripped-down record carrying echoes of the Pretenders past, but this is hardly a conscious re-creation of the group's first two records, as it lacks any of the stylish guitar colorings of James Honeyman-Scott, and the group's early hard rock swagger has been swapped out for a frenetic rockabilly bop, as infectious on the barrel-headed boogie "Don't Cut Your Hair" and Bo Diddley romp of the title track as it is on the ingenious Dylan send-up "Boots of Chinese Plastic." Hynde's revived rockabilly roll finds a comfortable pairing in the easy county-rock vibe of her ballads, of which there are far more of than there are rockers here. This emphasis on rockabilly and country-rock gives Break Up the Concrete a bit of an Americana feel -- something enhanced by the gently murmuring accordion on "You Didn't Have To," which otherwise is a cousin to the sighing pop of "Kid" -- but this doesn't necessarily feel like a departure for Hynde: it just feels like a lively, deeply felt Pretenders album, one that has better songs and better performances than usual.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine