Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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This Will Be Our Year, Pray Sam Stone, Tippecanoe, and Tyler Too

Future Soundtrack for America
Barsuk
Motorvated by He Is a Giant John Flansburgh and acquirable retail for $12 list, all profits to MoveOn and Music for America. Also as an add-on to McSweeney's' equally nonprofit Future Dictionary of America, and the recommended method, as a bonus to anyone who contributes $25 at moveonpac.org/future. Heftier spiritually than the McSweeney's project, in which gaggles of decorated and connected literati concoct neologisms for a nation made safe for whimsy and greensward, yet still painfully indie--who could imagine most Americans would choose a world so sensitive, grooveless, and devoid of glitz? Nevertheless, with half these songs said Americans are missing something, as they so often do. Wonderful covers include OK Go exhuming the Zombies' supremely hopeful 1968 "This Will Be Our Year," the Old 97's claiming an Opal song with the words "old 97" in it, Laura Cantrell wondering who will be Iraq's equivalents of John Prine's "Sam Stone," and They Might Be Giants themselves reviving the original campaign ditty, William Henry Harrison's 1840 "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too." Clem Snide, Ben Kweller, R.E.M., and the Long Winters provide the strongest new originals, save two: Black Eyed Pea will.i.am's self-explanatorily entitled "Money," and best of all, Mike Doughty's "Move On." There was a time when Doughty's corrosive irony was an up. This is not that time. He's gentle, sad, admonitory, impatient, impassioned. "By example, not coercion, force, or fear," he advises--and he is the example.

Village Voice, Sept. 7, 2004