Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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  • Brutalism [Balley, 2017] *
  • Joy as an Act of Resistance [Partisan, 2018] A-
  • Ultra Mono: Momentary Acceptance of the Self [Partisan, 2020] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Brutalism [Balley, 2017]
Hard-loud-big Bristol guypunks give no quarter in their war against the aural politesse of the class system ("My Mother," "Faith in the City") *

Joy as an Act of Resistance [Partisan, 2018]
Cognitive dissonance meets blunt force trauma via five guys who don't need Donald Trump to rail against fascism--not with Brexit, Eton, and bankers at a funeral for inspiration. What's dissonant is that you wouldn't figure from all this baritone bellow and jackboot four-four how much political rage they direct at sexism--the first three songs attack what "Samaritans" later brands "the mask of masculinity." It's like Joe Talbot's vocals are the male equivalent in reverse of Snail Mail or Lucy Dacus embracing sad femininity in gender solidarity. Though Talbot insists the Idles aren't a punk band, his unrelenting politics do remind one that he lacks both Joe Strummer's stealth tenderness and John Lydon's wormwood sarcasm. But a warmth suffuses "Danny Nedelko," about a Ukrainian pal who stands as Zanzibar-born Freddy Mercury's immigrant brother, and "June," all tender love for his stillborn daughter. And what kind of rage freak would be so tickled to cover Solomon Burke's "Cry to Me"? A-

Ultra Mono: Momentary Acceptance of the Self [Partisan, 2020]
Brits-to-the-core faced with a been-there-done-that backlash that's even more tedious from the critical solons of that existentially threatened isle than from our own, the rare band that's made a go of bellowing punk protest at this godforsaken juncture could plausibly be accused of defensive overstatement here and there. But as a creaky old lefty I say bring it on, and am happy to attest that their new songs gain allure till they flower into the superb "Kill Them With Kindness"-"Model Village"-"Ne Touche Pas Moi"-"Carcinogenic" midsection. Inspirational Verse: "You only die once/You'll never come back/You're gone when you're gone/So love what you can." Which is because: "Getting minimum wage while your boss takes a raise/As he lies through his brand new teeth is/Carcinogenic." A-