Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Dark Was the Night [4AD, 2009]
Starting with the still-available, still-classic Cole Porter tribute Red Hot + Blue, the AIDS-fighting Red Hot Organization has sponsored many smart multi-artist charity albums since 1990, but no bigger conundrum than this two-disc alt-Brooklyn-plus coffee klatch. The second disc can be pigeonholed with the usual anti-comp cliches--uneven, second-shelf, too many covers, etc. In fact, though, its many big names (for that scene) have national scope and try harder than usual. As for the first disc, only scenesters will warm to it right off--assuming they don't just trash it like the good little boho contrarians they are. But give it more chances than any non-fan would and the thing coheres--quiet, strange, subtle, too subtle, like a dream you can't quite remember. A-