Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

Consumer Guide:
  User's Guide
  Grades 1990-
  Grades 1969-89
  Expert Witness
Books:
  Going Into the City
  Consumer Guide: 90s
  Grown Up All Wrong
  Consumer Guide: 80s
  Consumer Guide: 70s
  Any Old Way You Choose It
  Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough
Writings:
  CG Columns
  Rock&Roll& [new]
  Rock&Roll& [old]
  Music Essays
  Music Reviews
  Book Reviews
  NAJP Blog
  Playboy
  Blender
  Rolling Stone
  Billboard
  Video Reviews
  Pazz & Jop
  Recyclables
  Newsprint
  Lists
  Miscellany
Bibliography
NPR
Web Site:
  Home
  Site Map
  What's New?
Carola Dibbell:
  Carola's Website
  Archive
Venues:
  Noisey
CG Search:
Google Search:
Twitter:
When John Lurie introduced the Lounge Lizards to downtown New York in 1980, he billed them as "fake jazz," and for the longest time it was hard to describe the band without using the words "sleazy," "lounge," or both. Influenced by Thelonious Monk, Henry Mancini, and postpunk attitude, Lurie wrote music for an android to get drunk to--tuneful, swinging, dissonant, proudly soulless, decorated with patches of chaos to help the postmodern nightcrawler feel at home. But even though you'd hope he'd know better, that wasn't enough for him--he also wanted to be taken seriously as a saxophone player.

Decent records on three different labels failed to win fortune or respect for Lurie, who instead became mildly famous starring in Jim Jarmusch's Stranger in Paradise and Down by Law. But he proved he was no fake by sticking with music. The Lounge Lizards Mark II featured second saxophonist Roy Nathanson, who combined straightforward jazz chops and sensibility with an instinct for Lurie's strange notions of presentation. When two good-to-excellent albums for Island also failed to break the band Stateside, Lurie found himself unable to convince another major label to give him what he deserved. So he released Voice of Chunk CD/cassette-only on a DIY label called 1-800-44CHUNK, which is what to dial on your phone to purchase a copy.

So why doncha? This is the strongest music of Lurie's career, combining the old fake lounge sleaze with the avantish musicality he's always aspired to. There's a tango and a Brechtian chorale and arty intros you find yourself humming two days later, and Lurie's embouchure has gained muscle. These days musicians who love jazz are hard-pressed to express their feelings without sounding reverent or received. Voice of Chunk does the trick. Anybody from downtown anywhere will recognize its sonic reality.

Playboy, Mar. 1990


Feb. 1990 Apr. 1990