Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Ass Ponys

  • Mr. Superlove [OKra, 1990] **
  • Grim [Safe House, 1993] **
  • Electric Rock Music [A&M, 1994] A-
  • The Known Universe [A&M, 1996] **
  • Some Stupid With a Flare Gun [Checkered Past, 2000] A-
  • Lohio [Checkered Past, 2001] ***

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Mr. Superlove [OKra, 1990]
clearly too smart for graduate school ("Ford Madox Ford," "[We All Love] Peanut Butter") **

Grim [Safe House, 1993]
also dim--aurally, not intellectually ("Not Since Superman Died," "I Love Bob," "High Heaven") **

Electric Rock Music [A&M, 1994]
Before lo-fi liars convince you to put out a search on Grim, remember that where concept bands are designed to blow up on impact, song bands have a way of, well, improving. Preserved on tape by Afghan Whig John Curley, the music of their normal Middle American freak show--tunes, beat, Chuck Cleaver's anxious falsetto--has gained decisive aural legibility on their major-label sellout, which cost a whopping $2500 to record. And the folk-rock lyrics are firmly grounded in literalist local color from Sherwood Anderson to Tom T. Hall. A-

The Known Universe [A&M, 1996]
existential despair in 75 words or less--also in Ohio ("It's Summer Here," "Redway") **

Some Stupid With a Flare Gun [Checkered Past, 2000]
Chuck Cleaver has always been in it for the vignettes--for situations evoked or described in words, pithy words. But as he declares himself a lifer--his first album in four years and fifth overall brings him to age 40--he reveals himself a bandleader. His seasoned rhythm section and strapping guitarist get so far into the guts of the songs you wish they hadn't wasted Electric Rock Music on the last one even though they had a sillier title ready. Cleaver's corkscrew falsetto bores into the high-strung music to transform lots of death and a third nipple into the stuff of noisy desperation, desperate celebration, etc. It's alt-country only insofar as it favors forms and farms. But if shit shovelers can convince Cleaver the cosmos has a niche for him, I'm ready to forgive all the fiddle fills. A-

Lohio [Checkered Past, 2001]
more song, less band--also more feeling, less story ("Nothing Starts Today," "Baby in a Jar") ***

See Also