Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2012-11-13

2012-11-13

Donald Fagen: Sunken Condos (Reprise, 2012) How can you not dig an ED-defying lounge lizard whose April-November romance evolves as far as "Today we were strollin'/By the reptile cage/I'm thinkin': Does she need somebody/Who's closer to her own age"? Whose examples of how "I'm Not the Same Without You" include a spontaneous facelift and an extra inch in height? This is cynicism lite swung tite. You'll grow to love the queen of Bowlmor Lanes, the Jazz Age gangster who takes pride in his work, the souvenirs of dooms past rusting in the back of the sci-fi shop. And before you get het up about the one called "Out of the Ghetto," know this: it's an Isaac Hayes cover. A-

Taylor Swift: Red (Big Machine, 2012) So if Stephin Merritt can make a big deal out of 69 love songs, why can't Taylor Swift make a fairly big deal out of 16? His being formally savvy in his pop-polymath way and hers being formally voracious in her pop-bestseller way? Need either deal be autobiographical? One hopes not in both cases, although verisimilitude has its formal aspects for bestsellers. Swift hits the mark less often than Merritt--65 or 70 percent, I'd say. But one could argue that the verisimilitude requirement forces her to aim higher. I like the feisty ones, as I generally do. But "Begin Again" and especially "Stay Stay Stay" stay happy and hit just as hard. That's hard. A-

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