Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2011-10-21


B-52's: With the Wild Crowd! (Eagle, 2011) In which Fred Schneider, of all people, proves himself new wave's premier vocal muscleman--a not-quite-swish 59-year-old cartoon powering the resurgent arena-pop of his 34-year-old band in Athens GA's 2500-capacity Classic Center. Kate and Cindy have also been working out since the combo unleashed their best album in 25 years in 2008. Nor is their first in-concert album undercut by the nine tracks it shares with their best-of or the five it shares with their comeback, because it's bigger than either. The still tacky, no longer little dance band always wanted to be vulgar but were too arty to take it all the way. Now they have, and it suits them. As so rarely happens with live recordings, they've never sounded more alive. A-

Ian Dury & the Blockheads: Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll: The Best of Ian Dury and the Blockheads (Rhino, 1992) I'm not claiming I've heard or even twigged all this world-class lyricist's best-of CDs. More than I can catalogue recycle "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll," "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick," and a bunch of lesser-known songs that are better than either. But though the mastering could be brighter on this elderly 18-tracker, there are plenty of them around used and its selection is clearly superior to that of the closest competitor I've found, Great American Music's stupidly entitled 2007 The Best of Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll. The only hands-down masterpieces the Rhino lacks from that one are "My Old Man" and the late "Bill Haley's Last Words," and it adds four others, including "You're More Than Fair," which is surely the only great song to include both the word "clitoris" and the word "toilet" and probably the finest to include either. Tender or crass, loud or quiet, loungy or recitative, cheerleader for his world-class idols or adept of local accents I know nothing more about, he was music-hall's great inheritor. Is there a Noel Coward or, I don't know, George Formby collection to compare? One as serious and as funny? I doubt it. A

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