Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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M People

  • Elegant Slumming [Epic, 1994] A
  • Bizarre Fruit [Epic, 1995] A-
  • Testify [Epic, 1999] **

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Elegant Slumming [Epic, 1994]
Perfect records are so rare that it's foolish to cavil about the scope of the great disco album Soul II Soul and Yaz never got near (although Donna Summer did once). Each five-minute song clicks into its slot on the Michael Pickering-Paul Heard beats and hooks and special effects, with low tenor Heather Small gender-bending her diva devotion and deep, robust, confident shout over the top. What's a rock and roller to do with such music? Proud Heather puts it perfectly in her angriest moment: "Take it like a man baby if that's what you are." A

Bizarre Fruit [Epic, 1995]
Second time out they're obliged to prove their staying power--not just produce a new batch of sure shots, but add the weight of a few slow grooves and tokens of conscience, with no beginner's backlog or U.K. singles-only to fill in the blanks. So, as is only human, they don't go all the way. Michael Pickering and Steve Heard like to say that their songs are getting more soulful and meaningful, but the deepest meaning they have to offer is bound up in their formal commitment to what's most frivolous in classic disco--the fun positivity of Saturday night fever. Only the one about heroes is altogether leaden, and "Drive Time" is the radio move of every club band's prospectus. But where Elegant Slumming was pure pleasure machine, this stops at intensely likable--a band record rather than a producers' record, with trickier percussion and subtler hooks. A-

Testify [Epic, 1999]
Four years later, 13 new tracks including five remixes--who do they think they are, Sade? ("What a Fool Believes," "Testify"). **

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