Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Playboy Music

When you're selling exotic rhythms in a foreign language, the compilation--a natural enough way to package any dance-oriented singles music, most often seems the only way to go: You can really pick your spots. So I'm not sure how representative Earthworks/Virgin's Heartbeat Soukous and Hurricane Zouk are. All I know is that I'm sold.

The language is French and the rhythms are Afro-Caribbean--soukous is the guitar-based Zairean-Cuban rumba that has been evolving since the Fifties, and zouk is what happened to Antillean cadence when it bumped into rumba in Paris circa 1980. The soukous collection goes down easily, like classic disco without artificial ingredients. I dare you to resist the guitar hook on "Zouke-Zouke." The zouk approach is more kitchen sink: synth parts, funny fiddle furbelows and personable lingers, including Francky Vincent, a.k.a. Doctor Porn, who'll have you pulling down the Larousse you bought in high school. African music with a Parisian provenance Sometimes seems suspiciously schlocky This shit is just slick, Jack.

Playboy, Aug. 1988


July 1988 Sept. 1988