Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Paranoid Style

  • The Power of Our Proven System [Misra, 2013] A-
  • Rock and Roll Just Can't Recall [Worldwide Battle, 2015] A
  • Rolling Disclosure [Bar/None, 2016] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

The Power of Our Proven System [Misra, 2013]
Collectors are a mixed blessing, artificial scarcity is a bitch, and this band has yet to release a dull song. So The Power of Our Proven System, which added four tracks to Bar/None's download-only EP The Purposes of Music in General for a Cassette Store Day (!!) limited edition of 100, is the iteration you might as well buy, covet, seek out, steal, or storm the barricades for. Named after a 50-year-old work of political analysis by ironic left-liberal historian Richard Hofstadter and led by Elizabeth Nelson and Timothy Bracy, a pushing-40 D.C. couple who've worked as lobbyists and writtentheir share of quality rock criticism, the Paranoid Style mine a pop-rock vein that braces Wilson's cleanly uncrystalline articulation against Bracy's noisier guitar and a straight four that doesn't quit. With scarcely a word swallowed or a turn of phrase obscure, their disturbing ditties delineate a worldview Nelson has said is "rooted in the small-c conservative conviction that Man is neither perfect nor perfectible--and don't get us started on Woman." The mix should be crisper because the tunes demand nothing less. But for lyrics like "Do it with a flick of wrist/Like you're a magician/Oh you're such a solipsist/There's only one position" and "I'm your friend and I'm your lover/Give me those clogs I'll be your mother," you'll settle. We often do, don't we? A-

Rock and Roll Just Can't Recall [Worldwide Battle, 2015]
Faster and louder, slower and more reflective, better recorded with a better drummer, this five-song EP is where Elizabeth Nelson fully vents her contempt for the 60s, structural injustice, the 60s, escapist liberalism, a charismatic mentor who brainwashed her with reason, the 60s, and the musical style she and her husband mean to be better at than anybody else in the world except maybe Sleater-Kinney. Her motto: "Don't think twice, it's all over now." Her self-promo: "Glam-rock for the end times." A

Rolling Disclosure [Bar/None, 2016]
On the scene-setting "The Ambassador's Morning Lift," a term Google tells me denotes a punch comprising egg nog, rum, cognac, and creme de cacao, massed guitars--three gang up live--are juiced a dozen seconds later by a busy bass line that quickly buries all hope of indie decorum. So say for purposes of argument that Elizabeth Nelson always needs to get a little blotto, because otherwise she sees more than she can bear. And say too that she needs to rev that blotto up. Her aversion to nonsense isn't merely acerbic--calm and well-spoken though she remains, she can still run you over with her full-on bitterness. This is so self-evidently an intelligent and experienced woman that when she finds 10 concise ways to tell you the world is a setup she convinces you she's been close enough to power to know she's not getting any. "We'll still be fighting the next war tomorrow." "Everything you did exists somewhere, you're on certain lists." "I've been on TV and I've been in the bag." "You know that I'll fuck anything that doesn't fuck me first." All zingers guaranteed tune-equipped, the better to assure you lend them your ears. Now somebody pay her what they ought to be worth. Right. A-