Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2011-03-01


The Baseball Project: Volume 2: High and Inside (Yep Roc, 2011) These 13 excellent songs are sufficiently specialized to make you realize how classic Volume 1 was--and what a theme statement "Past Time" was. Here the lead "1976" mourns Mark Fidrych, and though those who don't remember how rock and roll the kid was should look it up, that choice signals a smaller compass and a focus on frailty and death. "Chin Music" cheers on bad-asses who throw up and in, but later beanballs have tragic consequences for Tony Conigliaro's career and then Ray Chapman's very life--in a closer narrated by Carl Mays, the submariner who delivered the fatal pitch. Just as sad and strong is "Twilight of My Career," narrated by a Roger Clemens they'll almost convince you is a tragic figure. Yet the new season always brings new hope--Panda and the Freak will win the Series, and Ichiro will go to the moon. A-

Carolina Chocolate Drops/Luminiscent Orchestrii: Carolina Chocolate Drops/Luminiscent Orchestrii (Nonesuch EP, 2011) The Chocolate Drops are an African-American string band from Durham whose first Nonesuch album avoided intimations of minstrelsy but not slavery times, which is when fiddle-banjo-harmonica-bones-kazoo ensembles first entertained both masters and comrades. As was both historically accurate and the thing to do on the folk circuit where they plied their trade, their first Nonesuch album was arresting but contained--soulful and rather slow, America having speeded up considerable since the 19th century. But on this EP they hook up with an NYC Gypsy band whose big moment up to now was one about puttin' the puddin' in the punum, and whoosh, they're off to the camptown races. All four songs are quick, sexy, and a trifle nasty. The first and last celebrate a "short dress gal" who walks "like a queen in the Amazon" from male and female perspectives, both of which focus on the same end. In between comes a fiddle-fed cover of the gold-digging Blu Cantrell hit "Hit 'Em Up Style" and one subtitled "Diga Diga Diga" that I say is about speed. Can't parse it further because it's in Roma. That's the 21st-century America I want to live in. A

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