Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2019-05-10

2019-05-10

Camp Cope: How to Socialise and Make Friends (Run for Cover, 2018) However righteous Georgia Maq's cultural politics or profound her personal grief, she leads the rare "punk" band whose power strum is designed to plod implacably, a musical trope that dulls everything they do ("I've Got You," "The Opener") **

The Coathangers: The Devil You Know (Suicide Squeeze, 2019) Improbably matured into punk careerism, this initially amateur, always all-female quartet-turned-trio has slowed down by an estimated half a tad. But not counting the anthemic "F the NRA" (right, they don't actually say "F"), the lyrics--to the disinherited "5 Farms," the disconnected "Bimbo,"' the homophilic "Hey Buddy," the junkiephobic "Stranger Danger," the lithium-enabled "Lithium"--don't clear up until you consult a cheat sheet. This doesn't matter much for three reasons: because they have the gift of catchy, because we always feel they're on our side, and because splitting the vocal leads between stentorian baritone drummer Stephanie Luke and squeaky soprano guitarist Julia Kugel-Montoya imparts a dynamic range and novelty value matched by no other punk band, grrrl or otherwise. A-

Ex Hex: It's Real (Merge, 2019) Mary Timony slows her loud heavy down and makes it mean not be by reinstalling detachment as her emotional lodestar ("Cosmic Cave," "Radiate") *

Priests: The Seduction of Kansas (Sister Polygon, 2019) Proving that history does evolve no matter how stuck it feels, this always professional, always female-identified quartet-turned-trio has evolved or perhaps just morphed from punk into what we can still only call postpunk. This development suits a band who've always sounded like they took music lessons in high school and read too much theory in college a band who've never aimed for rousing or catchy much less simple. Bracing, usually; enjoyable, they're trying; angry, that's bedrock. What enrages them isn't just the unprecedented political morass now depressing if not immobilizing their target audience. It's bigger than that--objectification in all its guises, the futility of good intentions, the half measures passed off as progress, men who think they know what's best for them, men who think they know what's best for the world. Their music truly rocks, which is one thing they're going for and good for them. It's more absorbing than on their minimalist debut, too--thicker. But it does tend to fold in on itself--to lead nowhere. A-

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