Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2013-02-22


My Bloody Valentine: Isn't Anything (Relativity, 1988) Having caught up with this band a little too late to slip their debut album into my '80s book, I grabbed the chance to look back and noticed what I would have missed then: how songful it is. Pioneers in the rejection of melody just then transforming the dance music their own electronica concept runs parallel to, they're too busy rehabbing Jesus and Mary Chain to immerse forthwith in the grand and ugly atmospherics that would make Loveless a pomo classic. In other words, they haven't rejected melody yet, and on the half of the album where they manage a seamless meld they carry a tune on some of the most gut-wrenching guitar textures then yet heard, and not only that--although lyrics are irrelevant to this achievement, the "Loved me black and blue" of Bilinda Butcher's "No More Sorry" could be about what her daddy did and could be about hiding it from him, and Kevin Shields's "Sueisfine" definitely doesn't advise suicide and definitely does live with it. Pretty sharp for the love-is-pain school, I'd say. A-

The Vaselines: Sex With an X (Sub Pop, 2010) Back when Frances McKee and Eugene Kelly were charming the eyelashes off Kurt Cobain, they were a couple, and when they stopped being one they stopped being the Vaselines. Twenty years later give or take, they were friendly exes who'd never really found anything better to do. So to have some fun and pick up a spot of change, they got together and, no longer able to extrude their couplehood, instead said "Let's write some Vaselines songs." Title notwithstanding, there's somewhat less sex in these, and listeners who set store in self-expression might conclude that the slight dip in urgency reflects the new material's factitious origins. Compared to so many reunion albums, however, it's like they never left. Simple, funny, acerbic, tuneful, they're a cabaret act for people who can't play their instruments but have some facile friends with nothing better to do either. B+

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