Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2012-09-07


Divine Fits: A Thing Called Divine Fits (Merge, 2012) Before we proceed to the principals, give it up to garage-punk drummer Sam Brown, who does more than Handsome Furs/Wolf Parade yeoman Dan Boeckner to blast Spoon's Britt Daniel out of his self-contained art-funk bubble. Although the songwriting is split evenly, most of the lead vocals go to Boeckner, one of many recent singers to make straight-leaning rock seem duller (Handsome Furs) or sillier (Wolf Parade) than need be. Not good, you might think. Only soon you realize how much Daniel's spiky synths, still the strongest presence musically, benefit from Boeckner's adherance to emotional convention (and Brown's drumming). Never has Spoon conveyed so much heft or breathing room. In short, this rocks differently in a year when it's been hard to use that verb without reflecting on the mortality of all things. A-

Yeasayer: Fragrant World (Secretly Canadian, 2012) Most of the time you can half make out the lyrics and then occasionally parse them too--whaddaya know, "Reagan's Skeleton" is about the election, sort of, and neither "Longevity" nor "Henrietta" would mind if it died before it got old or reached 100, whichever came second. But I only made sense of this album when I decided to enjoy its sonic trickerations the way I do African music in which the verbal sentiments might compromise my pleasure if I knew what they were. It's not a groove record, that's for sure, but it has some bump and even funk to it, a dark density years away from the evolved Depeche Mode of the proudly proggy Odd Blood. And almost every track offers up at least a snatch of melody you're always glad to hear again. B+

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