Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Patti Smith: Radio Ethiopia [Arista, 1976]
It's priggish if not stupid to complain that Radio Ethiopia's "four chords are not well played." If they were executed with the precise attack of an Aerosmith, then they would not be well played. For although there's no such thing as an unkempt heavy metal record--technocratic assurance is the soul of such music--unkempt rock and roll records have been helping people feel alive for twenty years. When it works, which is just about everywhere but the (eleven-minute) title track, this delivers the charge of heavy metal without the depressing predictability; its riff power--and the riffs are even better than the lyrics on this rockpoet experiment--has the human elan of a band that is still learning to play. A-