Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2011-06-10


Garland Jeffreys: The King of In Between (Luna Park, 2011) Formally, the biracial Coney Islander is a singer-songwriter in the manner of his artistic contemporary Bruce Springsteen and his college buddy Lou Reed--a singer-songwriter who needs a drummer. Jeffreys is a good guy with loyal friends who made a small name for himself in Europe but faded from view in his hometown 20 years ago. Now at 67 he beats the odds by surpassing 1973's Garland Jeffreys, 1977's Ghost Writer, and all their lesser successors. Doing right by titles like "I'm Alive" and "In God's Waiting Room," it's another mortality album, and sure as bank fees there'll be more. But the good ones will all be different. Although in his in-between way Jeffreys was on reggae early, the only attempted skank here is a pointedly entitled economic crisis song called "All Around the World" that you'll wish bit down as hard as the not-dead-yet "'Til John Lee Hooker Calls Me." Boogieing with a quickness, Jeffreys believes "Rock and Roll Music" will pick you up off the floor at 64, and Dylan guitarist Larry Campbell backs up this idea throughout. But Campbell isn't on his Eurohit cover of David Essex's schlock classic "Rock On," and Jeffreys rocks on all over it anyway. A-

Thurston Moore: Demolished Thoughts (Matador, 2011) Just like Paul Simon, Moore constructs a singer-songwriter album where the attraction is, of all things, the music. Stranger still, it's the guitar strumming. Just as Moore's tunings sharpen noise-rock intellectually, they tone up pretty-folk physically--as do Samara Lubelski's violin and producer Beck Hansen's synths. The melodies are strong, and Moore's murmur serves them well. But ultimately singer-songwriters are supposed to deliver lyrics, and unlike Simon's, these come with postage due. Beyond "Benediction"'s comfort and "Orchard Street"'s flaming youth, confusion is still sex in Moore's philosophy. For all we can tell, he thinks it's love, too. A-

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