Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Hard Working Americans: We're All in This Together [Melvin/Thirty Tigers, 2017]
Especially after I read the enlightening if microscopic 3000-word essay concealed in the CD case, this live album finally convinced me that Todd Snider was worthy of his own rock dream--a dream the essay claims or reports took this form after the fearless leader was roused from one of his many scary stupors to discover that he was no longer Blind Lemon Pledge. Launched by Bo Diddley and finished off by Chuck Berry with Elvis shining "Burn Out Shoes" in between, he leads a jam band worthy of a song called "Ascending Into Madness" and then ascends from madness himself. The middle third drags, especially when his drawl deteriorates into an incomprehensibility no guitar ace can right. But even there he gets points for remaining the only rocker of any stripe to call out the LIBOR rate by name. Addressing "my fellow hippies," he observes: "This night might be the night of our entire lives. Why not? Why not? Why not tonight?" And though it's obviously possible he says that every show, it's to his credit that he seems too unhinged to be so calculating. Far more than any jam band record I've gotten through, this is the rock dream the hippies invented before they burned out. Snider has come way too close to burning out himself. But so far he hasn't. A-