Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2014-11-07


Mike Doughty: Circles Super Bon Bon (Snack Bar/Megaforce, 2013) Soul Coughing songs of special use to people who abominate the other members of Soul Coughing as much as its reason for being now does ("Super Bon Bon," "Sleepless") *

Mike Doughty: Stellar Motel (Snack Bar/Megaforce, 2014) Doughty has never been tuneless. But he's better at lyrics than melody and better at declaiming than singing, which is one reason he foundered after he broke with the polyrhythmic Soul Coughing. It also explains why his old songs held up when he devised an alternatively polyrhythmic hipster hip-hop that he elaborated further for these new ones, breaking decisively with the trad band sound he settled for solo--backup more percussive and electronic, guests more rappers than singers. For the middle third of a 16-track album that lasts just 50 minutes, the lyrics have trouble filling in their title concepts. But everywhere he sounds at home. He's acerbic of course--he hasn't gone soft. But he's always credible, often thoughtful, and sometimes even spiritual. B+

Jon Langford & Skull Orchard: Here Be Monsters (In De Goot, 2014) Once it hits home, the opening "Summer Stars" could be the gravest song of his life, a threnody for an earth ruined by the ecological/economic catastrophe most of us foresee in our grimmer moments--a vision no less vivid or plausible for its reliance on metaphor. The metaphors that follow are easier to duck and in the case of the amelodic "Mars" ignore. But starting midway in with "Drone Operator," the lyrics become more pointed, one political indictment after another, with Langford's precisely articulated, barely contained rage his version of what they call soul. Sing it, brother. A-

Jinx Lennon: Know Your Station Gouger Nation!!! (Septic Tiger, 2006) Punk poet has never been much of a job description. But on the four albums I've heard, Lennon always makes something of it, and on this 2006 entry he makes everything of it. Recorded when the Celtic Tiger had gotten so mangy anybody who could stand Lennon at all knew he'd seen what was coming, he's full of gleeful scorn whether advising fellow male-pattern baldness sufferers to live with their fate or going off about home invasions again. For 20 tracks he rants on, sometimes tunefully and always unstoppably. He gets everything you'd hope from titles like "New Land of Syringes" and "Nigerians (Stop Giving Out About)." The matched hymns "You Must Forgive the Cnts" and "You Are No Scumbag" showcase his spiritual side, and "S.U.F.Y. Hospitals" borrows a hook from "Looking for the Perfect Beat." All he wants is to keep us out of the circle of shit and help make a better world for Ireland's bruised bananas. A

Jinx Lennon: Live at the Spirit Store (Septic Tiger, 2000) Early on, Dundalk raver fuses "raw"--nay, "cotton field"--songs with standup bits ("So Frightened," "Brothers Gonna Work It Out," "Heavy Music for the Hard Working Man") **

Jinx Lennon: National Cancer Strategy (Septic Tiger, 2010) More songs about pathology and revenge ("Fight Diabetes," "If You Change Your Accent for the City People," "Pink Scrunched Up Thing") ***

Jinx Lennon: Trauma Themes Idiot Times (Septic Tiger, 2009) Worried about bumming out fans you'd think were used to his moods by 2009, Lennon has old helpmeet Paula Flynn echo him sweetly on most of these songs and leaves room for a horn section a lot mellower than he is. But he also makes sure his punky-rootsy band drives the trauma themes on, and although they get winded after an opening sprint, his arsenal of vocables doesn't quit. On the merry "Folk Music for the Midlands," the energy sustains even when Lennon and Flynn are bidding each other a resigned and lyrical farewell. "I must keep it awkward and real," Lennon insists on the long track of more or less that title that precedes an even longer finale. And that goes as well when he's advising you to stick a knife in a burglar's eye. A-

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