Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2012-08-21

2012-08-21

Ry Cooder: Election Special (Nonesuch/Perro Verde, 2012) Protest songs are hard to nail even in the moment, and I can't promise that the three bull's-eyes here will sound as dead on in five years, or one. Cooder's innovation is reapplying the Popular Front mindset to the messy compromises of electoral politics, and all the must-hears illuminate the 2012 presidential election rather than merely referencing it: "Mutt Romney Blues," where the Republican standard bearer does to his dog precisely what he'll do to us; "Cold Cold Feeling," where a black man in the White House details his blues; and especially "The 90 and the 9," where the singer explains why he's repurposing that gospel song about this may be the last time. "Going to Tampa" slaps on too broad a burlesque, "Guantanamo" wanders off message, and others just don't twist the screw tight enough. But I give him extra credit for both preaching to the converted and doing his damnedest to rally the holier-than-thou. B+

Serengeti: C.A.R. (Anticon, 2012) He sleeps on a friend's couch in Berkeley and imagines possible lives. "Your wife having a secret family in Gary/A second spouse, sorta looks like Neneh Cherry." "I want a simple life/Where we milk cows and cobras." "Buy my own street cart/Specialize in beef hearts." "Have sex with a horse./Reconsider divorce." "The antibiotics made me hallucinate/Cops arresting patients, Arabian spiders inside my arms./And then my wife got shot/She was seeing him for a year, I had no idea." "Hey, can I borrow your mind?/I really need a hit, it's been a long time." "I wish was my name was Otto/Everybody has a dream that they'll win the Lotto." Anticon minimalist Odd Nosdam provides all the beats Geti needs, and when your mind wanders, quite often the music alone carries you along. For good measure, other alienated acquaintances drop by and pitch in. Eleven tracks, half an hour. Is there anybody else who can do this? A-

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