Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Scritti Politti

  • Songs to Remember [Rough Trade, 1982] B
  • Cupid & Psyche 85 [Warner Bros., 1985] A-
  • Provision [Warner Bros., 1988] C+
  • White Bread Black Beer [Nonesuch, 2006] **

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Songs to Remember [Rough Trade, 1982]
With the force of religious conversion, abrasive anarchist Green Gartside emerges as a pop-funk sweety-pie. Though he'd sing like Al Green if could, he settles for a gentle conversational tenor but tries too hard. The lyrics always bespeak literacy and sometimes deliver wit ("I was like an industry/Depressed and in decline"), as does the music, which shores up the out-of-pocket rhythms with tunes rather less often it undercuts them with dissonance. He's still in the deconstruction business, after all. The one that goes "My sincerity, my penicillin, my window, and my drudgery" is called "Jacques Derrida." B

Cupid & Psyche 85 [Warner Bros., 1985]
Green's Gallic allusion of choice--the name of his pubbery, in fact--is "jouissance," but although he's playful and verbal enough to make it his own, he falls short in the climax department. I'd suggest a less gushy conceit: esprit. The high-relief production and birdlike tunes and spry little keyb arrangements and hippety-hoppety beat and archly ethereal falsetto add up to a music of amazing lightness and wit that's saved from any hint of triviality by wordplay whose delight in its own turns is hard to resist. Usually I suspect lyricists who refuse to be clear of never having figured out what they mean, but here the puns are so clever and incessant that they become an end in themselves. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Green knows what he wants to say. A-

Provision [Warner Bros., 1988]
Wonder how much Green knows about Immanuel Kant, who rhymes with "Gaultier pants"--more than you or me, probably, and less than he should before he starts name-dropping. But thereafter he strives to right his arty rep. The ones that begin "Gonna get that girl," "I wanna get 'em girl," and "Get you girl" proceed as you'd expect, into a flighty funk of positively offensive banality. I always thought his pretensions were kind of fun myself. C+

White Bread Black Beer [Nonesuch, 2006]
"He said you gotta have a reason for a revolution/She said if you don't have the wherewithal you don't need the why," and like so many ex-Marxists, Green Gartside loves women in theory ("The Boom Boom Bap," "Road to No Regret"). **