Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Dramarama: Disillusioned Already

Back when there was still a Dive, I dropped in on the Silos, an unknown folk-Velvets quintet who'd sent me a lovely album out of the blue. It was depressing, all that smart delicacy gone limp, and I remembered again how private an obsession albumcraft can be. So I expected no more of Dramarama, an unknown rock-Velvets sextet who'd sent me an astringent album out of the blue, when they played their first live gig in a year and their first Manhattan gig ever July 1 at the China Club, a disco-bar near the Beacon neatly declassed by the suburban motley of fans from the band's Passaic County turf. But I got what I'd hoped for even if I couldn't have told you beforehand what it was.

Here was a known style of cool that didn t think twice about making this very 1986 joint its habitat. Costume was six versions of black-and-white--one guitarist in jacket, scoopneck, and Harpo Marx hat the other in black tie sans tux. Decor included headless mannequins live and on album cover plus a bank of mismatched TV sets nickering the same silent tape: game shows, quick-cut junk collages, soft-core porn, leader John Easdale in his sunglasses-after-dark. Easdale was diffident and in command, putting the same smarts into his low-key gestural dramarama as he does into songs that make rhyming words of "criminal" and reciprocate." Sure he's self-involved, but he's got ambitions, of symbolic stardom if not the real thing, and the new wave verities of his music connect: upbeat but rarely cheerful, lyrical yet hard and arrogant. Though he's better-looking and more likable, Easdale's a familiar type to anyone who's enjoyed Richard Butler or winced at Steve Wynn--disillusioned already, at 26 or something. Boredom is boring but he wears it well, and I think it's encouraging that one of the set's many high points was called "New Dream and is ready for the second album the band deserves. First one's called Cinema Verité and is available on the French label New Rose.

Village Voice, July 15, 1986