Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2012-04-13


Cotton Mather: Kontiki (Deluxe Edition) (Star Apple Kingdom, 2012) Pieced together in 1997 from impulsively conceived, doggedly recorded scraps of DAT and four-track by Austin mastermind Robert Harrison and a Memphis tape wizard who loved how Big Star the band was, Cotton Mather's second album caught the attention of some British Beatles fanatics d/b/a Oasis, who brought them over to open and even generated some U.K. sales. While allowing his vocal resemblance to "John Lennon with a Southern accent and a head cold," Harrison's extensive notes don't cite the Beatles much even though "My Before and After" resembles "Ticket to Ride" more than its supposed inspiration "(Reach Out) I'll Be There" and "Private Ruth" echoes "For No One" straight up. Harrison is no more a genius than Noel Gallagher, so though the lyrics aren't spaced-out gibberish or obvious pap, they're unequal to the music--which definitely beats, for instance, the last three songs on the first Big Star album, and even more remarkable, kind of makes you appreciate Oasis. (N.B.: I'm recommending the Deluxe because it's new and much cheaper, not because I expect ever to listen to its alternates and new ones for anything except the research I presume is now complete.) B+

Oasis: Stop the Clocks (Sony/BMG, 2006) One of the many things I never got about this band was where the Beatles were. Where was the ebullience, the wit, the harmonies, God just the singing, and, uh, the songwriting? Cotton Mather made me understand that when Oasis say they love the Beatles they really mean they love the post-Help!, pre-Sgt. Pepper Beatles. Since that span encompasses Rubber Soul and Revolver, many would say tally ho, but (a) not me 'cause I love the Beatles start to finish and (b) only if you're writing songs as good as, uh, "We Can Work It Out." Instead Oasis, meaning loudmouth bro Noel Gallagher, write songs that resemble "We Can Work It Out" in thickened texture and momentum but not depth or charm, then add arena size in the swagger of the drums and the bigged-up vocals themselves. This band-selected best-of--two discs lasting 87 minutes, like an old-fashioned double-LP except it's only 18 tracks--capture their sonic moment as fully as any freelance music historian needs. A 2010 package repeats 11 of these songs and adds 16 others--too many, I say. Also, it omits the opening "Rock 'n' Roll Star." If ever there were guys whose message to the world is summed up by an opener called "Rock 'n' Roll Star," it's these bigheads. B+

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