Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2013-01-15


The dB's: Falling Off the Sky (Bar/None, 2012) Solo or in tandem, neither the easygoing Peter Holsapple nor the lapidary Chris Stamey has put his hand to an album nearly as good as drummer Will Rigby's 2002 Paradoxaholic since Reagan was president. They've sounded stiff, tired, twee. But although it's nice to have Rigby's drive (and his hickster kissoff ditty) dirtying up this reunion, motor problems weren't what sunk H&S's 2009 Here and Now with Jon Wurster in the drum chair. And in 2012, it's like H&S never went away. The difference could be parallel life changes or the luck of the songwriting draw or even what never seems to work in the reunion hustle, pride in the band brand. But it's unmistakable. As ever, Holsapple's songs have more life than Stamey's, with the lead "That Time Is Gone" a song about finality a 25-year-old could get behind that's as rousing as anything in their book. But dreamy Stamey has just as much right to a premonitions-of-death title closer a 15-year-old could get behind. A-

Yo La Tengo: Fade (Matador, 2013) Their quietest and most fragile album is also their most orchestrated--horns! strings! live! (on four songs total). Even so, the songwriting is so diffident it tempts us to fill in the blanks by concluding that what we've long been told is all there is to know. This music's ground is a warm, sweet, committed relationship troubled by withdrawal issues each partner enacts in his or her own way--silence met with impassivity, say. But on their quiestest album, for the first time, mortality has crept through the door. Conclusion: "Find the comfort in our life/Before it disappears." (Hence the orchestrations?) A-

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