Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2012-10-16


G.O.O.D. Music: Cruel Summer (G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam, 2012) Lyrically, Kanye & Assoc. do little more than add ho and gangsta sidebars to the boss's core philosophy: "Conspicuous Consumption Equals Authentic Negritude." Usual suspects Pusha T and Raekwon sound better working this con than young jurks Big Sean and Chief Keef, and there's cleverness all around, with my pick the boss chorus "We flier than a parakeet/Floating with no parachute/Six thousand dollar pair of shoes/We made it to the Paris news." But close attention to the rhyming reveals all too clearly that the philosophy has gotten even lamer than it was to begin with. The surprise is that the attention requires so little effort, because there's always a musical touch to keep you alert: strings chamber and pizzicato, shouts and murmurs, cackles and whoos, glitches of every description, and a predictably unpredictable panoply of percussives. As with the virtual naturescapes in Samuel Delany's Stars in My Pockets Like Grains of Sand, you may never touch Gucci, but you'll know the texture of luxury just the same. And that better the hell be enough. B+

Jamey Johnson: Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran (Mercury, 2012) Most likely the smattering of albums by the Nashville pro who came up with "I Fall to Pieces" and "Make the World Go Away" deserves one of those Rhino cherrypicks of yore. But there's a reason he had more success as a songwriter than a singer, and this collection of 15 duets and a solo showcase makes a nice alternative. Although it may omit other semi-classics as well-turned as ("If she's anything like her memory . . .") "She'll Be Back" and (jukebox not route number) "A-11," both new ones on me, I actively miss only "She's Got You" and "It Ain't Love, but It Ain't Bad." And vocally, duet partners from 41-year-old Alison Krauss to 86-year-old Ray Price outdo themselves keeping the young powerhouse in check--only on the ill-advised showcase does Johnson get to show off. In fact, when Merle Haggard steps to the mic it can be hard to tell them apart, which is a credit to both--one they owe to the guy whose motto was "I always try to make it short, make it sweet, and make it rhyme." A-

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