Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2013-05-28

2013-05-28

The Beautiful South: Golddiggas Headnodders & Pholk Songs (Sony Music UK, 2004) By the time pop grandmaster Paul Heaton threw this covers album to his U.K. hordes, his American fanbase was so small it had drowned in a pint of bitter. Yet the Britannia-ruling Olivia-ELO-Zombies trifecta that opens is no less winning than the all-American Ramones-Stylistics parlay that closes, and the Heppelbaums country song is more Willie Nelson than the Willie Nelson country song even though the Heppelbaums are actually Paul Heaton and Dave Rotheray. Moreover, the U.K.-specific selections from Spice Girls spinoff S Club 7 and major-label shoegazers Lush fit in less cunningly than the brazen Blue Oyster Cult and Rufus Wainwright picks. Every rendition is sly, dulcet, midtempo, with strings when appropriate--a beloved pop confection. A-

The Beautiful South: Superbi (Sony/BMG, 2006) Paul: "We've come a long way from the cave." Alison: "What, you started to shave?" Paul: "Now we know just how to behave." Alison: "Since chivalry decided to bathe." So OK, I accept that they're somehow too English for us rude Yanks. What I don't get is how they lost their mojo in their native land--disbanding in 2007, they announced, due to "musical similarities." Their final album is middle of the pack by their high standards, opening with six unfailingly witty tunes, most of which reflect cynically on romantic love although there is that one about the Manchester rain, and closing with six less consistent songs Ray Davies would embrace socialism to have written. I suppose it could have been the drinking. I read where Paul now owns a pub in Manchester, records solo a bit, and continues to embrace socialism. A-

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