Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

tUnE-yArDs: I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life [4AD, 2018]
Merrill Garbus has a gift for embarrassing people, especially by caring so deeply about the unpackable racial complexities her music has always addressed head on. It's these complexities she's now chastised for making a mess of in a time-slip when African-Americans have earned the right to charge appropriation whenever white musicians venture into racial territory, which is such a relief to the many white people eager to let things ride. On an album marked by the theme statements "I must be witness to everything," "Honesty, honesty gone / Don't know right from wrong," and "I know I'm not to be trusted," she acknowledges more white guilt than she's probably incurred, so of course sometimes she's clumsy about it. Who isn't? But with decisive input from bassist-lifemate Nate Brenner, her musicality--smoother here, perhaps due to the black-pop softeners some reviewers descry--remains something to believe in. Proud against her better judgment, she can't stop exploring her art or living her life. "Sitting in the middle of the Sixth Extinction / Silently suggesting the investment in a generator," she gives no sign she'll ever stop flailing away at everything that makes her crazy and compels her to sing. A-