Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2010-12-10


Of Montreal: False Priest (Polyvinyl, 2010) Though Kevin Barnes begins lucky in love for once, he's all "You're such a crazy girl" as of track two, then back-and-forths until "Famine Affair," Sly Stone hyperbole intended. Yet the back-and-forth evokes a real-life marital seesaw, extreme by normal standards but pretty convincing coming from a borderline hysteric, especially after the hysteric's real-life wife Nina breaks her accursed silence in her native Norwegian. The realistic aura is greatly abetted by co-producer Jon Brion, whose presence signals Barnes's felt need to put some bottom on his verbal spew and some body on his sexual fantasies. Solange Knowles's throaty cameo on "Sex Karma" also helps; Janelle Monae's cameo is of course spacier. And at the very end comes a sermon utilizing voice simulation software: "When will certain people realize/that afterlife is nothing to live for/nothing to die for/nothing to fight for." Some will surely find this preachy, yucky, or technologically compromised. I'm just happy I can say amen. A-

Scissor Sisters: Night Work (Downtown/Polydor, 2010) No love songs, in case you had any doubts--sex songs exclusively, which usually involve human connection and occasionally hint at provisional commitment but rarely evince anything as quotidian as affection because the quotidian is for day people. In short, Clubworld without morning-after moralizing. But not without a morning after--for an early riser like me, the definitive track is "Running Out," a scarcity song more desperate than any Bruce Springsteen could write because Springsteen refuses to indulge in despair. Good for him, I agree. But unfortunately, despair is very much with us. It'll blow up before it recedes. And this music is intensely committed to escaping it. A-

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