Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2010-11-24

2010-11-24

Arcade Fire: The Suburbs (Merge, 2010) With beats this straight and stolid, you'd better keep the anthems coming, and they do, almost. Acclimate yourself and maybe you'll check in with track three (at 1:20, the "chosen few" stuff) or even track two (just 29 seconds until "Businessmen they drink my wine"). Certainly track four, the sub-four-minutes reproach "Rococo" ("ro-co-co-ro-co-co-ro-co-co-ro-co-co," although that rendering shortchanges the rhythmic nuances). Then you'll put the record aside for a week or two, and when you return you'll be back to backgrounding it till track five, six seconds of violin pre-climax to the speedy intro to the sub-three-minutes Régine Chassagne feature "Empty Room," followed hard on by the determined "City With No Children." After that it'll be as back-and-forth as Win Butler's thematics till Ms. Chassagne climaxes the opus with the wholehearted "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)." Then you'll remember just why you wanted to put it on, and soon you'll be coming in at "Rococo" yet again. A-

M.I.A.: Maya (Deluxe Edition) (Interscope, 2010) Since self-made celebrities with pretensions always stumble eventually, I figure it's my place in the food chain not to act like a hyena when they do. So I kept listening, and concluded that while this is no Kala, what is? Arular is the analogy, only there she strove to ingratiate and here she elects not to--with immensely more success than MGMT on Congratulations and rather more success than Kanye West on 808s and Heartbreak. The stark beats take some getting used to, and there are lyrical miscues that still make me wince when they catch my ear--only it's been a while, because I'm too busy loving those beats and the spunky, shape-shifting, stubbornly political, nouveau riche bundle of nerves who holds them together. I admit that I'm now less inclined to hear "Teqkilla" as a lust song for her just plain rich honey and more as a red flag about her alcohol consumption. But if you've ever been a fan, this isn't where to stop. Just play it a few more times than the fools who clocked dollars for the job and you'll get your money's worth. And I do mean on all 16 new songs--three of the four bonus tracks are upper 50th percentile for sure. A

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