Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2012-07-17


Burial: Street Halo/Kindred (Hyperdub/Beat, 2012) Two EPs from the mysterious William Bevan, six tracks divided evenly between his 20-minute 2011 return and his 30-minute 2012 stride forward, cohere almost seamlessly as the album they become when you don't have to turn any plastic over. The accomplished recapitulations of Street Halo--faerie electro-soprano and vinyl sputter-crackle laying their dream and disquiet on the nervous beats?-pause briefly at what is now track four, which takes seven seconds to achieve liminal audibility before slowly building into a peppier elegy than anything he's previously dared. And despite the lamentable title "Ashtray Wasp" (please, I don't want to know), the 12-minute finale begins as a distressed house anthem--not literally uplifting, this is Burial, but inspiring nonetheless?-and then trails off into something more lyrical. Thoughtful, even. A-

Saint Etienne: Words and Music by Saint Etienne (Heavenly/Universal, 2012) It's not like they ever disappeared--in Britain they've been minor fixtures, regularly releasing albums that all sounded markedly inferior to 1993's So Tough from here. There's even a best-of no Stateside bizzer ever touched. But they clearly regard their first proper album since 2006's Tales From Turnpike House as some kind of recapitulation or theme statement--a looking back that's warmly affectionate but too cool to melt into nostalgia. Announcing her intentions with a striking half-spoken reminiscence of a fandom that began at 10, Sarah Cracknell devotes most of these songs to the young clubbers and music lovers she was and knew. But at times you suspect her subjects and personas are older, still caught up in the same dreams. And the subject of "Twenty Five Years" is the time in front of her. Her male partners Bob Stanley and Peter Wiggs provide reliable disco-inflected pop or vice versa that the remixers on the optional bonus disc trick up with more wit and fidelity than we who avoid remixes sagely expect. A-

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