Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2013-02-05


Wussy: Berneice Huff and Son, Bill, Sings . . . Popular Favorites (Shake It download, 2013) I claim no objectivity about this wittingly ramshackle collection of remixes, demos, live versions, covers, and ancient interview snippets except as regards the number of times I've chosen to put it on at bedtime or breakfast--partly because my wife is as big a fan as I am, but partly because I knew by play two that what nonfans might consider its self-indulgences would never obtrude. The excellent new songs are all southern Ohio covers, two from their allies in the Afghan Whigs and one from someone named Jenny Mae. But if you believe that Lisa Walker may be the finest female singer working today, and that this band has never written a song you'll mind hearing again, then alternate versions are just a way to reaccess her vocal invention and their collective touch. Even the 2:33 worth of snippets fit in--Chuck and Mark are funny guys. Available gratis, of course, to anyone who likes 'em enough to visit their website. B+

Yo Ma Ma-Stephen Kalinich & Jon Tiven: Symptomology/Shortcuts to Infinity (MsMusic, 2012) Kalinich started writing lyrics for the Beach Boys in the '60s and went on from there; Tiven fronted the Yankees' 1978 garage-rock one-off High 'n' Inside before establishing himself as the go-to producer for soul singers too far over the hill to bring his songs alive. But now, at 70 and 57, the two collaborators pack two distinct garage-rock albums into one double-jewelbox, with Tiven the vocalist on all 31 tracks after a layoff of over three decades. Predictably, I prefer the punky Symptomology to the hippieish Shortcuts to Infinity, but on both records the familiar-sounding tunes stick to the eardrums, delivering lyrics that are quite funny or sufficiently wise. Formally and sonically, it's received save some extraneous horns. But as human expression it's inspired, with Cody Dickinson's North Mississippi drums driving it toward the immediate future. A-

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