Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Pulnoc

  • Live at P.S. 122 [[bootleg], 1989]
  • Pulnoc [Globus International, 1991] A-
  • City of Hysteria [Arista, 1991] A-
  • Live in New York [Globus International, 1998] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Live at P.S. 122 [[bootleg], 1989]
[1989 Dean's List: 1]

Pulnoc [Globus International, 1991]
If their Arista power-glitz leaves you craving something more mythic, murky, and underdeveloped, happy hunting. Maybe you could prevail upon a world traveler to find a copy on the far side of the EEC. Sometimes calm, often passionate, usually gloomy, always earned, and a potential boon to post-Stalinist foreign exchange. A-

City of Hysteria [Arista, 1991]
I balked because I loved the dark inevitability of my live tape, but for you, the problem will more likely be their provincial notion of good rock and roll--of "rock." And to make our unease mutual, new guitarist Tadeus Vercak's articulated strut and ex-guitarist Josef Janicek's high keybs skirt schlock-metal flash and art-rock ostinato respectively. But this is just the American studio version, complete with digital definition and dollops of English, of a music whose strength has always been a stylistic commitment, misprised though it may be, that has nothing to do with rock and rollers' provincial notions of the latest in consciousness. Existential anxieties that might merit a postcollegiate sneer in America spoke for the people in Stalinist Prague and continue to signify in the ur-Bush version. Ditto for lovingly nurtured musical melodrama that seems more inevitable every time through. A-

Live in New York [Globus International, 1998]
Cut the night after the U.S. debut of the Plastic People Mach II, which produced the never-released board tape I called Live at P.S. 122 when I named it my favorite recording of 1989, this subtracts a two-song encore and adds local avant-Slavophiles Elliott Sharp on saxophone and Gary Lucas on guitar. Unbeknownst to me till I examined the booklet, it also translates half my concert review into Czech. I'm flattered, but I still prefer my blunter, wilder version. The power of this music is its reclamation of arena-rock as motor of liberation, and this illusion is not enhanced by embellishment or distraction. On the other hand, it isn't demolished by them either. Covering William Blake and Lou Reed, deploying cello as low-tech synthesizer, betting all their marbles on a lead singer who's six months pregnant, they rock out as if they can make walls fall. A-