Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2019-02-22

2019-02-22

Carsie Blanton: Buck Up (Carsie Blanton, 2019) The unfashionably chirpy, unabashedly horny Blanton has been making albums since 2005. This one, which credits some 400 "executive producers," is easily the best--she's never been so catchy or sexy, and along with unabashed politics catchy and sexy are her flash points. The sure shot "Jacket" strikes a balance--"I like your shirt, I like your jacket/I like to think about you when I whack it" meets "We tried to have a chat, but it was too scary/You're just a Democrat, I'm a revolutionary"; the both-sides-now "Harbor" turns "Love was made for making" into "Hearts were made for breaking." "That Boy" is all lust, "American Kid" all history lesson. And then there's depression: "Bed" can't be a sex song until she stands on her own two feet nor "Battle" a politics song until she makes it through the night. So on the finale her hound dog puts first things first: "Buck up baby, cmon sic 'em/Make 'em laugh if you can't lick 'em." Which sums up her philosophy if anything does. A

The Paranoid Style: Rock & Roll Just Can't Recall + 3 (Bar/None, 2018) Beefed up to eight songs to mark its embrace by a venerable label of indie luminaries from They Might Be Giants to Ezra Furman, this digital-only reissue of a superb self-released 2015 EP is designed to make fresh converts as first responders download the three new ones. As Elizabeth Nelson fans come to realize, how deep the songs are is a trickier call than her command of political rhetoric makes you think--lines like "Are we not men/Are we mere clients" and titles like "Slush Fund City" never quite launch the intellectual content her hard groove and enunciated multisyllables gesture toward. She's a songwriter, folks--let others waste their smarts on letters to the editor with op-ed dreams. Especially since Nelson has just nabbed the rock critic slot at a political blog with the excellent rock and roll moniker Lawyers, Guns and Money. The anti-'60s cracks that animate her enthusiasm for Dylan's Slow Train Coming are enough to make one hope that before too long she gets to sound off about Bernie Sanders. A

The Rails: There Are Other People in This World Not Just You (Thirty Tigers, 2018) Kami Thompson joins Pernices-Pogues guitarist-vocalist James Walbourne to showcase Richard-and-Lindaish originals ("Other People," "Dark Times," "Australia") ***

The Regrettes: Feel Your Feelings Fool! (Warner Bros., 2019) Provisionally punky LA teens rock practical feminist support to their less evolved sisters ("Head in the Clouds," "Seashore") **

Caroline Rose: Loner (New West, 2018) Be glad she values catchy, be glad she goes deeper too, be sorry she's catchiest at her shallowest ("Bikini," "Money," "Jeannie Becomes a Mom") **

Kate Vargas: For the Wolfish and Wandering (Kate Vargas, 2018) Her "Americana singer-songwriter" slot barely hints at her yipping growl, quirky phrasing, erotic substratum, or metaphorical range, but it may suggest why it never adds up to enough ("Roll Around," "7 Inches") ***

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