Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2013-08-20


Clay Harper: Old Airport Road (Terminus, 2013) In which the Atlanta restaurateur and one-time Coolie hires a female rapper, a blueswoman, an Arabic-singing massage therapist, and Colonel Bruce Hampton to deliver "beautiful songs with a despairing look at the world." In 1986 I called the Coolies "a glaring example of the postmodernist dictum that art about art is boring but junk about kitsch isn't," but although it could be said that all the guests add up to a single distancing technique, they're really there to furnish a fullness of feeling, different in each case, that Harper knows his own vocals aren't up to. Over just half a song, the massage therapist is the show-stopper. But for a restaurateur to let a rapper rhyme the praises of Red Lobster is a sure sign that he's grown in spirit. A-

Superchunk: I Hate Music (Merge, 2013) I believe that what had Mac McCaughan sounding so elated on Majesty Shredding was the excitement of having finally learned how to make an album worthy of his myth. So it's only natural that this is less of the same, and that in "Void" and "Staying Home" early on he's as bummed as a good grunge visionary should be. Not that bummed isn't a valid feeling appropriately expressed. But its validity is put in context by what comes right in the middle: "Trees of Barcelona," about the euphoria of sharing a rock festival in the capital of international bohemia. That's the Merge co-founder's life. Give him credit for knowing it's been a lucky one. A-

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