Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2011-05-17


The Henry Clay People: Somewhere on the Golden Coast (TBD, 2010) Although their new EP sounds suspiciously like a reject pile, this talky 2010 tunefest showcases a six-years-running LA g-g-b-d who like Neil Young, Tom Petty, and especially the Replacements, the latter of whom they resemble but fall well short of matching, as goes without saying for the first two. Says chief songwriter Andy Siara: "The situations I find myself are situations that a whole crapload of 20-somethings who don't know what they're doing are in as well." Their gift is transforming these situations into songs that don't have quite the juice to inspire a movement, including songs with titles like "Working Parttime" and "End of an Empire." They named themselves after The Great Compromiser because they wanted something historical-political, adjudged the Forgotten Presidency of Chester A. Arthur too long for a marquee, and settled--too soon, as compromisers will. I think of them as the Displacements myself. B+

Let's Wrestle: Nursing Home (Merge, 2011) Hiring Steve Albini in a doomed attempt to stave off those twee rumors, these three London slacker-punks or whatever they are do what s.-p.o.w.t.a. always do--mature. Fortunately, they also do what all maturing s.-p.o.w.t.a. wish they could do--write better songs. I noticed the guitar roar first and the tunes second. But I stayed for the lyrics. "There's a Rockstar in My Room": "But they wouldn't want to stay." "I Forgot": "I may be a few hours late." "In the Suburbs": "I'll have dinner with my mother then play computer games all night." "For My Mother": "If the children need to go to school/Well I'll do that." And my favorite, "I Am Useful": "I will not let my big emotions get ahold of me today/I'm gonna put an English face on this." A-

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