Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2019-05-17

2019-05-17

Epic Beard Men: Season 1 (Strange Famous, 2018) So much more interesting when they scorn the rich and let their scene's hustlers pursue their pathetic scams and dreams away from the spotlight. ("Shotgun Golf," "War on Christmas [2017]") *

Epic Beard Men: This Was Supposed to Be Fun (Strange Famous, 2019) On their second why-the-fuck-not, hirsutely sub-elderly Rhode Island alt-rap careerists-without-a-cause Sage Francis, 42, and B. Dolan, 38, do their bit for class consciousness by rhyming about their work life. All their stories are grotty. But "Circle the Wagons," with its stashed body, jailhouse locale, and litany of "What did you do?"s, is its only gangsta moment. And transgressively raw though these beardos are, they're also comedians: try "Shin Splints," about racing to make a flight, or "Pistol Dave," about a dirtbag who couldn't even hack the low-level job they had the heart to give him? And then there's "Hedges," where an ex-GI moves in next to a schlubby liberal and they're both paranoid because why shouldn't they be? A-

Quelle Chris: Being You Is Great, I Wish I Could Be You More Often (Mello Music, 2017) Persona-morphing free for-all is sharpest when it's about himself--not counting his wife-to-be's best-in-show, that is. ("The Prestige," "Fascinating Grass") **

Quelle Chris: Guns (Mello Music, 2019) The Detroit indie-rapper has always stuck in comradely cameos and comic bits in a Mafia accent. So of course there are diversions on this album. Yet it feels like it's all about G-U-N-S guns even when it isn't, as in "Mind Ya Bidness," which packs nothing but blunts, and the lead "Spray and Pray," which undercuts its "We load up, lift, and shoot" refrain with a "turn in they AKs for 401Ks" dissent. Ostensibly it's multiracial, too--where the action in both those tracks is located in black America, "Sunday Mass" names Nikolas C., Devin K., Stephen P., Omar M., Syed F., and Aaron A. before getting to Dylann R., and isn't it a mitzvah that most of us have already deprived these monsters of the infamy they craved by forgetting the surnames Quelle doggedly pronounces? But his toughest rhyme offers a concise racial analysis: "Monkeys who gang bang chained to the streets/Honkies with gang brain armed to the teeth." And to assure us that good things are possible even in a crisis, he joins wife Jean Grae for one of hip-hop's realest love songs before saying sayonora. A-

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