Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2012-05-15

2012-05-15

Amadou & Mariam: Folila (Nonesuch, 2012) As if their charming calculation has become routine--maybe for them, maybe for us--this never takes off the way Welcome to Mali did. But it does hang in there, and rewards attention, especially as regards its many cameos: less big names Santigold and TV on the Radio than Tuareg guitarist Abdallah Oumbadougou shredding louder than Nick Zinner or Scissor Sister Jake Shears disco and proud. Not so welcome is perpetual guest Bertrand Cantat, a lapsed French rocker-activist who did a mere four years for beating his girlfriend to death in 2003. True, Cantat's harmonica tenses nicely against Ahmed Fofana's ngoni in "Sans Toi." But mostly he sings, and he's no Tunde Adebimpe or Kyp Malone. There's such a thing as taking tolerance too far. A-

Cornershop: Urban Turban (Ample Play, 2012) Ever ecumenical, Tjinder Singh loves Europop thrushes no less than Bollywood thrushes: one cameo apiece to a pop hopeful from Bordeaux née Sokolinski, a U.K.-based music teacher-gospel singer, Celeste with a French accent, Katie without one, a Swedish nightingale, the British-Indian daughter of a singer poetically but also inconveniently named Mangal Singh, und so weiter. Several distinguish themselves--SoKo all breathy, Lorraine nice and rough--as does (Tjinder) Singh, changing up the rhythms as he "milks" his usual tiny store of melody. Leading and closing with the same unpasteurized song are the five-year-olds of Castle Hill Primary. "What Did the Hippie Have in His Bag?" they ask again and again--perhaps because, as the visiting dignitary knows full well, for five-year-olds hippies are approximately as real as wizards. B+

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