Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Miracle Legion

  • The Backyard [Incas EP, 1984] B+
  • Surprise Surprise Surprise [Rough Trade, 1987] B-
  • Glad [Rough Trade EP, 1988] B+
  • Me and Mr. Ray [Rough Trade, 1989] C

Consumer Guide Reviews:

The Backyard [Incas EP, 1984]
Mark hooks his evocations of dazzled childhood and yearning adolescence on Ray's insistent guitar figures and sings like Loudon Wainwright III's kid cousin the Shoes fan. Joel and Jeff cultivate a discreet anonymity that suggests they may not like R.E.M. as much as Mark and Ray do. B+

Surprise Surprise Surprise [Rough Trade, 1987]
As with so many middle-class suburban Amerindies whose music starts hazy, they're making atmosphere their vocation. Problem's less tunes than lyrics, and less the way the lyrics make evocation their vocation than what they evoke--New Yorker poems about mowing the lawn, rather than just mowing the lawn. B-

Glad [Rough Trade EP, 1988]
Second side's live remakes are already overdue--amazing how a little loud can tone up the sensibility. From "A Heart Disease Called Love," a John Cooper Clarke setting that might have been plucked from the bowels of Nashville, through "Glad" and "Hey , Lucky," first side's new studio songs aren't what you'd call glad--more like mournful, angry, and depressive. Also strong. B+

Me and Mr. Ray [Rough Trade, 1989]
Me is Mark, Mr. Ray is Ray, rhythm section is gone. Unidentified toilers back the pleasant tracks; the unpleasant ones are all voice, bad poetry, and instrumental accompaniment. It gets worse than ". . . you could be my Venus/I'll close my eyes and hold my ears and walk up to a broken heart," but only rarely does it wuss out in your face like that--usually Mark's more obscure. Sure he's also bright, sensitive, and honest (probably). But so are you (probably). So go sing in the shower. C