Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2012-11-02


The Coup: Sorry to Bother You (Anti-, 2012) As a proud communist who's spent his career claiming the people are ripe for revolution, Boots Riley has at his disposal a rich, seldom-tapped seam of scathing rhetoric and concrete metaphor and fleshes out leftist analysis with humanist muscle and poetic integument. How many anti-school rants rise to "statistics is the tool of the complicit"? How many anti-hipster snark jobs match "You're the asshole ambassador/But your friends obey like Labradors/I vomited on the alpine decor/It's OK, your daddy's gonna buy some more"? But as he passes 40 it gets harder to deny that, ultimately, he's almost as deluded as the average H.P. Lovecraft obsessive, who at least understands he's on a fantasy trip. The songcraft on this hard-rocking hip-hop album is uneven by Riley's high standards--some are unclear, others longer on hook than wisdom. So when Das Racist and Killer Mike join in on the finale, I'm happy to be reminded that there are younger rappers ready to move Riley's vision worldward. Good for him. A-

The Rough Guide to Undiscovered World (World Music Network, 2012) Dumb title. If they're afraid to call it "world music fusion" because that sounds too cheesy, how about "polydiscovered" or "cross-discovered"? Gambian-Scottish reels, Cypriot-Chilean rebetika, Polish orientalism, like that. At its worst, which is pretty bad, New Age mawk wafts incenselike from its gentle shows of musical privilege. But pull the plug on the unspeakably polite English Arabists at track six and program past the peace-addled Africana at tracks nine-ten-eleven and you have a lively panoply of sounds you've never heard before. Most of them couldn't maintain your interest for more than a track, although I hope eventually to double-check that assumption with the gamelan funk of Sarutusperson. Instead they're held together by their hopeful, thoughtful, universalist curiosity. B+

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