Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2012-10-12


The Henry Clay People: Twenty-Five for the Rest of Our Lives (ATO, 2012) Soundbites--well, wordbites--song by song. "We don't know how to die." "I'm making sense of all the senseless/I'm getting wrecked with all the reckless." "We found some jobs and paid off our loans/Then we lost our jobs and let your parents know/That you'll be movin' home." "Every band we ever loved/Is selling out or breaking up/Finding out the limits of their reach." "Give it up and come on out/That stupid dream is over." "You are the property of privilege/Now you are learning how to live with it." "You wanna taste a taste of the tasteless/We can waste away with the wasted." "And I can move to the country/But that won't solve anything." "One mistake too many fights three nights/You pay for the rest of your life." "Friends are forgetting/We're getting too tired to try/Keeping up with each other/So we leave them behind." "Not that it ever made a difference/Back when we were innocent/Oh-oh-oh." Pretty impressive. Problem? More than half the songs sound effectively the same. Rocking, absolutely. Tighter, too. Tuneful, in their way. But imagine the Replacements without Westerberg's hookfinder and you'll understand the limits of their reach. B+

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis: The Heist (self-released, 2012) The question isn't whether this Seattle alt-rapper is a cornball, it's whether he's so dumb he's a cornball or so brave he's a cornball. The answer is "Same Love," the best gay marriage song to date in any genre and as corny as it damn well oughta be. Sure there's too much "who I really was," too much "a life lived for art is never a life wasted." And though the co-billed Lewis is big and original for an alt-beatmaker, his percussion-oriented version of an E Street Band, strings-swell-to-big-finish aesthetic has its icky moments. But as someone who shares Macklemore's moral views if not his equation of sincerity with soul, I find only the alcoholic's confession "Neon Cathedral" too much, and that one's counteracted by the relapser's confession "Starting Over," just as "Sayin' 'That's poetry, it's so well-spoken,' stop it" counteracts his art talk. He's especially good on old cars and old clothes. B+

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