Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2012-01-17

2012-01-17

Destroyer: Kaputt (Merge, 2011) With Daniel Bejar's latest band sound already compared to everything from Aja and Avalon to late New Order, I'll take, um--Pet Shop Boys! Forgoing the rock expressionism he lacks the heart or chops for, Bejar bends Neil Tennant's bemused calm toward an acerbic subtlety suitable for deflecting one's historical anomie. Mix in a smoove groove suitable for deflecting others' disinterest in one's historical anomie and you have intelligent lounge music for 21st-century depressives. The X factor is trumpeter JP Carter, who no one will mistake for Chuck Mangione because he's there not for jazz cred but to stick it to the guitars Bejar lacks the heart and chops to stand up against. This is how the pleasure principle feels to an alienated unbeliever resigned to engaging the world on his own perverse terms. B+

The Mekons: Ancient & Modern: 1911-2011 (Sin, 2011) I had to play this two dozen times on faith before it came clear--too many, don't you think? What kept me on it was the ingrained musicality of a bunch of jokers who've evolved into a sonic organism even though they never see each other anymore, defined by "afar and forlorn" Welshman-for-life Tom Greenhalgh, who three decades in is a singer you love or you don't. Having given up on changing the world and without much hope of comprehending it before it kills them, they convene here to record 11 obscure, fraught, forlorn songs written, near as one can tell, from the POV of middle-to-ruling class Britons negotiating the political turmoil before World War I. There will be victories for a working class that's called by its rightful name. But they won't be enough. They never are. Near as one can tell. A-

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