Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Playboy Music

No album since the Sex Pistols' debut has been as wildly hailed in England as the Jesus and Mary Chain's Psychocandy (Warner), and big deal. If we're lucky, you figure, we'll get a Culture Club or a Joy Division; if not, a Smiths or a Duran Duran. Well, we were lucky times four, because what we got was the good parts and only the good parts of Culture Club and Joy Division in one package. Without a hint of moony servility or doomy bullshit, this album is lyrical and powerful all at once. These 14 songs--all great tunes and rough edges, murmured superhooks and jet-propelled feedback--are what countless neopsychedelic bands have been hearing in their subconscious and are too addled or nostalgic to make real. If we're really luck, the radio czars will notice how catchy "Just Like Honey" is and play the hell out of it. Another Sex Pistols flop America doesn't need.

The problem with guitar virtuosos is that most of them wouldn't know a good musical concept if they tripped over it, which happens just often enough to keep everyone confused. The exception who proves not a damn thing is Jimi Hendrix, the finest guitarist in any idiom ever. Although he comes close sometimes, Texas roadhouse master Stevie Ray Vaughan ain't Hendrix, and the great album he has in him, Jimi Boogies, keeps getting ruined by installments of Stevie Ray Shows Off. The second side of Soul to Soul (Epic) boogies along just fine until Vaughan elects to close with a soulful slow one that gets going only with a Hendrix coda. Its predecessor, "Couldn't Stand the Weather," moves more consistently; but it might serve the guitarist right if instead you picked up on Lonnie Mack's Strike Like Lightning (Alligator). Vaughan produced it and plays all over it, and Mack needs the royalties more than he does.

Playboy, May 1986


Apr. 1986 June 1986