Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Pretenders: Loose Screw [Artemis, 2002]
Of course Chrissie Hynde's not "back." She never went away, and if this record proves anything it's that she never will--as long as she gets a production budget. Figure she got into a spiky mood after 1999's Viva El Amor failed to impress radio or her U.S. label of 20 years. Where that album demonstrated the emotional utility of a comfortable tune, here the Steinberg-Kelly plush is down to two tracks and doesn't quite go with material that finds its spirit in the persistence of punk and its soul in reggae basslines. For a 51-year-old who refuses to act her age, pretty convincing. Stick her on one of those diva specials and watch her snarl. A-