Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Paul Simon: Stranger to Stranger [Concord, 2016]
Backwards street gospel, flamenco handclaps and heelstomps, and Harry Partch microtones move and color an obsessive craftsman's insomniac lullabies. But the unease of Simon's new songs runs deeper than the existential anxiety these technical strokes alleviate, and not just because they provoke musical anxiety to do so. Early in the opener, a Milwaukeean with "a fairly decent life" is murdered by his "fairly decent wife," and soon the rich are gobbling all the extra fries as the rest of us hoard canned goods; in the one after that, a bemused tale about a stage door clicking shut transmutes into a meditation on the rage of everyone who'll never get a wristband. Five years ago it was like Simon had been soaking up the Dixie Hummingbirds for so long he'd made his covenant with God. On this record the good news is that heaven has finally been found--located a mere "six trillion light years away." A-