Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Deborah Harry is a floozy in her forties who's known international stardom and tough times--as a chick singer, a waitress at Max's, a Pop punkette, a star whose moment slipped away as life-partner Chris Stein fought and defeated chronic illness. And though the Harry-Stein songs aren't as edgy, her pseudotough irony is intact on her third solo album in eight years, Def, Dumb and Blonde (Sire)--especially in its longer, riskier CD version. On the Thompson Twins-penned I Want That Man she plays the forward-looking sexpot as wickedly as ever, on End of the Run she mourns her moment as if Sunset Boulevard is still ahead of her, and in between she lusts after a bicycle messenger, tries on some pop and samba, and wonders how she got into this comic book.

Exene Cervenka is a floozy in her thirties whose roots-punk band, X, went kerflooey some time after she split with life-partner John Doe. Always a notebook-toter, she goes for roots and poetry on her solo debut, Old Wives' Tales (Rhino). Too often her protest-tinged sincerity cries out for a nasty jolt of junk guitar, but sisterly tales like She Wanted and White Trash Wife give form to the kind of natural feminist sympathies rock and roll floozies--who are kept busy protecting their asses--rarely have time for. Pray for the X versions.

Wendy James is a floozy in her twenties who shares a band called Transvision Vamp with life-partner Nick Christian Sayer. On Velveteen (Uni), the second TV album, she sings Sayer-penned junk-rock songs about being in it for the sex--Baby I Don't Care says it, I Want Your Love codes it, and so forth--like she never heard that killer riff before in her life. Rarely has the music produced more convincing soft-core porn, and enjoy it while you can--she could change her tune before you know it.

Playboy, Jan. 1990


Dec. 1989 Feb. 1990