Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2011-07-12


Shabazz Palaces: Black Up (Sub Pop, 2011) Play loud. I can't speak to the listening practices of the post-illbient beatmakers whose tricks Palaceer Lazaro gathers together and improves on like he's just been waiting for the go-ahead from Tricky himself. But though I wouldn't be surprised if they blasted everything at 10, I think of them as background guys best heard on de facto dinner comps like, say, Mush Filmstrip (Frame 1). Don't make that mistake on an album that improves mightily when the volume is high enough to break the beats into components so they're impossible to ignore. That way, there's no mistaking it for the aimless prog Sub Pop probably hopes gullible white youngsters lump it with. Special favorites for me are the children's-chorus loop turned mbira-and-hand-drums on "An echo from the hosts that profess infinitum," the kinetic drum'n'whatever of "yeah you," the faux-woodwind-lick/surrogate-maracas-electroclicks/African-etc.-outro of "Swerve . . . the reeping of all that is worthwhile (Noir not withstanding)." But I like them all--the beats, that is. The titles are for the gullible, and shouldn't give you the wrong idea about the rhymes even though the beats are why you'll play this. Loud. A-

Street Sweeper Social Club (Tom Morello/Boots Riley): The Ghetto Blaster EP (SSSC EP, 2010) For Tom Morello to swap Zack De La Rocha for the smarter, funnier, savvier, flowinger Boots Riley looked better than it sounded on the resultant album, due partly to Riley's loss of lyrical bite and partly to the musical falloff from Coup to mere Rage. But on this apparent afterthought Riley sounds as mad as ever, calling out the pres by name and declowning himself on "Scars (Hold That Pose)": "This old ripped jacket is 'cause I am an artist/I'll burn rubber on you if my car'll get started/Third month avoiding landlords is the hardest/It's only funny 'cause you don't see where the scar is." And this being an EP, there are killer covers. "Paper Planes" is subtly revised from a song about how they'll take your money to a song about how we will. A verbatim "Mama Said Knock You Out" becomes a threat. "Everythang" was a Coup song to begin with. A-

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