Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2012-10-19


Kid Koala: 12 Bit Blues (Ninja Tune, 2012) The turntablist prankster has set himself up to fail here, which he may think is blues and I don't, just as he may think blues recordings should be rough stuff in the Alan Lomax mode whereas I think they're better served sonically by Leonard Chess. Anyway, nobody who knows blues as well as I do, which is medium well at best, is also going to know enough about turntablist technology to truly understand what it means to eschew sequencing software in cobbling together bits and pieces of a blues album on a classic and therefore long outmoded E-mu SP-1200 sampler. Too crude not just for Muddy Waters but for one of those also-rans the Revenant and Yazoo folk sneak into their secret histories, the songs Koala fabricates are songs in form only. Yet this isn't to deny their tunes or even hooks, nor to deny they're blues. After more time than anyone from either camp will be inclined to give it, the album takes on a compelling, sui generis sonic identity, at least for someone from the blues side. What the turntablist side might think I am unqualified to guess. A-

The xx: Coexist (Young Turks, 2012) Even sparer and stiller than their minimalist debut, this will hit any normal listener as a hyperaesthetic downer--a bore. After three years, couldn't two clever lads and their clever lassie devise some clever twist that would lively them up without soiling their precious principles? But the music does eventually tiptoe in, and quiet as its kept the lyrics tiptoe on in with them. Damn right this group is obsessed, artistically, with young love, which in case you didn't know remains a grand theme of universal significance, and these scrupulously abstract verses capture its obsessive doubts and fragile exaltations with delicacy and tenderness. Like it or not, they add up to a song cycle with a happy ending--the joy of which may grow in wisdom or crumble back toward nothingness tomorrow. A-

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