Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2011-10-11


Eric Church: Chief (EMI, 2011) I know the idea is that the studly barfly who kicks the album off grows up as it progresses, but that doesn't help me feel the big dog who wants to beat up my buddy in "Keep On," or convince me that the morning-after sex of the last verse isn't a literary lie. Still, grow up he does. Church has always known how to write, and he's blowing here--check how the reworked title of "Homeboy" obliterates one's faint reservations about its moralism, or for that matter how the reworked title of "Keep On" mans up that sex scene. Jack Daniels (apostrophe omitted) and Springsteen (teen-sex soundtrack) are also title-cited, as is Jesus, twice--as a woman he doesn't deserve and a Johnny Cash imitator country music could use. Be nice if this bright, basically decent guy was him. A-

The Dirt Drifters: This Is My Blood (Warner Bros., 2011) Five red-bloodeds from Greater Nashville--which here encompasses Oklahoma, where the Fleener brothers did what their mechanic dad loved and not what he did, and New Jersey, where Garth Brooks showed Jeff Middleton where he could stick his knack for words--escape the working-class rut they'd be lucky to be grinding down right now with capitalism running amok. The strong songs about labor breaking your back are outnumbered by the sharp ones that prescribe alcohol for the pain. But these dudes know honky-tonk hoo-hah for the doomed escape it is--a real-life option they understand better than they do the women they drink with. Just as well that their protest song--"All the good politicians are dead," "Radio plays the same 10 songs," etc.--is called "I'll Shut Up Now." But they won't and they shouldn't, because whenever they just look around a little they have the skills to tell us what they see. B+

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