Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Wreckless Eric

  • The Whole Wide World [Stiff, 1979] A-
  • Big Smash [Stiff/Epic, 1980] B+
  • Bungalow Hi [Southern Domestic, 2005] Dud
  • Construction Time & Demolition [Southern Domestic, 2018] A-
  • Transience [Southern Domestic, 2019] ***

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

The Whole Wide World [Stiff, 1979]
Like the Only Ones' Special View, Eric's U.S. debut sifts the duds out of two years' worth of U.K. singles and LPs to arrive at a stylistically unified compilation album--though the thirteen tracks list seven different producers, they cohere, because Eric hasn't had time to outgrow his own impulses. The voice mewls and scratches like a cat in a broom closet, but the melodies get out, and the lyrics are a lot less hapless than they pretend to be: beneath the girl-shy fool lurks an ironic paranoid of devastating subtlety. A-

Big Smash [Stiff/Epic, 1980]
A strange sort of double album, half of it the compilation indie Stiff stiffed with last year, the other a supposed commercialization. The theme is "Pop Song," which begins with a murmured "Put it in your mouth" before moving on to "Better write a pop record/With a money-spinning hook/If the muse don't hit you/You're off the books." 'Tis said the spunk has gone out of the lad, but though he does wax lyrical at times--I like the one where he admires the style of a girl handing in her tube ticket--he's as rude and scrawny as ever. Maybe the new stuff isn't altogether fabulous, but Stiff led with a compilation because he's mortal. If you count yourself among the millions who didn't purchase The Wonderful World of Wreckless Eric, do so now--you'll hardly notice the pop songs' rough sheen. If you count yourself among the thousands who did, ask yourself how much you love him and act accordingly. I love him moderately myself. Grade for new disc only. B+

Bungalow Hi [Southern Domestic, 2005] Dud

Construction Time & Demolition [Southern Domestic, 2018]
A few fine songs peek out from these 11 tracks--the bridge-to-nowhere gentrification threnody "Gateway to Europe," the fanboy expose "Wow & Flutter," the unraveling autobiography "40 Years." So do fine chants like "The Two of Us," a title he yells 19 times. But note as well instrumentals designated "Mexican Fenders #1" and "#2," a guitar-not-car metaphor that evokes the shambolic fuzz and droll electronic detritus he smears everywhere. A deliberately unkempt whole whose stray noises will make you chuckle against your suspended judgment throughout. A-

Transience [Southern Domestic, 2019]
Half a dozen riffs durable enough to support a jam of sorts, many attached to strong first lines, perhaps three of which unfold into full-fledged songs. ("Father of the Man," "Strange Locomotion") ***