Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2013-09-06


Neko Case: The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You (Anti-, 2013) Now 42 and three years past her most readily parsed solo album, Case confesses that the mortality she's seen in the interim moved her to write more confessionally. That seems to mean, although no one's talking, not just lyrically but melodically and structurally, which translates to more parsably still. There are hooks here, folks, and literalism fan that I am, I say they're most effective on the strictly reportorial "Nearly Midnight, Honolulu" and the lost-love "Calling Cards." Favorite metaphor: "Man"'s "I'm a man." Favorite obscurity: "You never held it at the right angle." A-

The Julie Ruin: Run Fast (TJR, 2013) Although I read in the Times that late-stage Lyme disease sufferer Kathleen Hanna's first album since 2004 includes "several peppy numbers about euthanasia," I dare you to figure out which they are. What's easy to tell is that at 44, the riot godmotherrr commands pretty much the same old skinny soprano, only with soft edges that sound tender or thoughtful sometimes. You can make out enough lyrics to determine that these vulnerabilities don't come at the cost of crazee abandon, modulated tantrum, or childish drawl. And you soon realize that the music continues a trajectory that runs from Bikini Kill through Le Tigre to this version of the pop music every great punk loves: surf guitar, bongo effects, keyboard hooks from Hammond to EDM, and--crucially, I think--a male voice on occasion, mostly for deep ballast. Some say she's from Mars, or one of the seven stars that shine after 3:30 in the morning. But she isn't. A

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