Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Expert Witness: October 2018

October 12, 2018

Link: Hamell on Trial / Lyrics Born / Mudhoney / Will Hoge

Hamell on Trial: The Night Guy at the Apocalypse: Profiles of a Rushing Midnight (Saustex) Recorded live on his phone in venues hither and yon, these 13 low-life tales are different from all the other low-life tales the barfly with his stage name on the cover has peddled over the years. That's because they're enraged rather than merely sardonic, and also because 14 of these low-lifes die, often hideously. These include one commander-in-chief (it was the vodka, swear to God) and start with the five dispatched quatrain by quatrain in "Slap": a wife-beating cop, a foreclosure king, a Nazi fuck, a pedophile priest, and some lawyer or CEO or something whose smirk Bobby didn't like. Accompanied solely by Ed Hamell's trusty guitar and one boozy singalong, the minimal melodies of these brutal fantasies hit bone on the strength of the narrative punch he's honed over decades on the road--"I've gotta go from Iceland to Dublin," he notes at the close of "Melting Snow (Kill Them All)." That ominously subtitled selection adds no new stiffs to the death toll. It merely targets every stupid-as-shit hate-spewer now adding meanness to the world--starting, let's figure, with a commander-in-chief or something who inspired this Jeremiah-come-lately to spew his report from the fucking front. Which front, in case you hadn't noticed, is everywhere. A

Lyrics Born: Quite a Life (Mobile Home) Exuberant and extravagant if gravelly at times, chanted more than sung because Tom Shimura is a rapper, this major funk vocalist's sixth solo studio album celebrates life the hedonistic way. Its first four tracks praise sex as chocolate cake, bling that includes a stegasaurus skeleton and some sasquatch fur, the girl from first-period English who turned him out, and the beauty of difference. But it also embraces life the conscious way. "Can't Lose My Joy" distills his wife Joyo Velarde's long, frightening triumph over non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The double-reversed James Brown cover adds that question mark to "This Is a Man's World?" for the best of reasons. And we'll call the unlisted bonus track "Arrest the President" because it begins by chanting that phrase 14 times before cataloguing shortcomings that include his small penis. A MINUS

Mudhoney: Digital Garbage (Sub Pop) "They got a loophole in Davos / They got a giant needle / If you can pay the price / They'll let you ride a camel through the eye"--which is why "Evangelical Hypocrites" could give a shit about the "Next Mass Extinction" ("21st Century Pharisees," "Next Mass Extinction") ***

Will Hoge: My American Dream (Thirty Tigers/EDLO) "Don't want your stars n bars and your blood on my damn hands / I'm lookin' away now Dixie cause I've seen all I can stand / But I'm still a Southern man" ("Nikki's a Republican Now," "Thoughts and Prayers") **

October 19, 2018

Link: Riton & Kah-Lo / I'm Not Here to Hunt Rabits / Next Stop Soweto Vol. 4 / Seun Kuti & Egypt 80

Riton & Kah-Lo: Foreign Ororo (Last Gang) Riton is London 40-year-old Henry Smithson, who's been riding the waves of the UK dance scene since 2001, Kah-Lo Nigerian 25-year-old Feridah Seriki, who moved to New York in 2009 to attend college and stayed to pursue a job in marketing. Their delectable 2016 "Rinse and Repeat" nabbed a Grammy dance track nomination and ultimately generated this irresistible little album. The light, catchy loops and beats of the dance-pop Riton goes for take their lead from the girlish delight of Kah-Lo's half-spoken unrap in a synthesis that bears only a peripheral relationship to Lagos's electro-happy Afrobeats craze. Kah-Lo's saucy vocal signature is as calculated an invention as the besotted pitch corrections of Rayce or Mr Eazi, but her presumption of innocence is as old as rock and roll, manifesting in an evolved schoolyard chant that needs a fake ID to get loose with the Henney and the Coke. Notice, however, that ID quality becomes a much heavier matter in the Mr Eazi cameo "Immigration." And that "Money" is about not really needing that much. A MINUS

I'm Not Here to Hunt Rabbits (Piranha) Site of both the monumental Norman Rush novel Mortals and the soft-hearted James McCall Smith No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series (Jill Scott played Precious Ramotswe on TV), Botswana is less esoteric than Piranha wants curiosity seekers to believe, its capital no further from Pretoria than Boston is from New York. Nor will the bass-heavy "Botswana guitar" style showcased on this oddly configured compilation sound strange to any fan of South African mbaqanga. But that's good--with mbaqanga having long ago run its post-apartheid course, these tunes work up the same gruff energy and stalwart pulse without percussion instruments or anything Jo'burg would call a recording studio. Propelled by a guitar technique in which the hand reaches over the neck to riff on three strings while the thumb drives a bass sometimes furnished by a battery cable, their rustic confidence is less frantic than mbaqanga's urban drive. The vinyl disc features only 11 tracks, whose purchase permits the download of eight otherwise unavailable others, including one called "Condom." Those 11 are the cream. On side two, hear the scratchy violin of "Ngwana Wa Dichabeng" transition to the playful vocalese of "Tiki Molamu" to the organ-driven female falsetto of "Re Babedi." And wonder where Sibongile Kgaila found the guitar hook of "Gladys." A MINUS

Next Stop Soweto Vol. 4 (Strut) "Zulu Rock, Afro-Disco and Mbaqanga 1975-1985" with an emphasis on the Zulu rock, though that old mbaqanga stomp bangs in there (T.Y. Boys, "Lekopokopo Single Moqashoa"; Harari, "Give") ***

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80: Black Times (Strut) "Till we free, you and me, dem no go see last revolutionary" is more inspiring as a slogan than a line in a song, which is how political music goes sometimes, isn't it? ("Black Times," "Bad Man Lighter [B.M.L.]") *

October 26, 2018

Link: Maria Muldaur / Blue Lu Barker / George Jones / Duke Robillard / Willie Nelson

Sorry, this post is not yet available here. It is scheduled to appear on January 24, 2019.

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Noisey, October 2018

September 2018 November 2018