Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Morrissey is a U.S. cult hero and Robert Forster isn't, but for sure neither is as famous as the group he came up with: the Smiths, mid-'80s U.K. teen heroes, and the Go-Betweens, Australians so quietly literary they spent half their career in the mother country. But chart-topping bands get old just like unjustly neglected ones--faster when led by miserable egomaniacs like Morrissey. And only rarely is the fickle public enraptured by the self-expression that ensues.

The Smiths broke up just as the adult unknown was swallowing their formerly faithful, who will never forgive Morrissey for chucking guitarist Johnny Marr and wouldn't have forgiven him for trading his self-pity for sarcasm anyway. As an adult who always found the Smiths too too, I prefer him that way--Every Day Is Like Sunday, on the singles collection Bona Drag (Sire/Warner Bros.), is one of the funniest celebrations of teen miserabilism ever recorded, and on Kill Uncle, the dish just keeps on coming (in the usual fits and starts) right up to the crowning There's a Place in Hell for Me and My Friends.

But even though the we-can-work-it-out-and-up plea Baby Stones is his greatest song, the title of Forster's maturely unkinetic Danger in the Past (Beggars Banquet) sums it up. Hope the band retrospective 1978-1990 (Capitol), half greatest nonhits and half fairly great outtakes and B sides, isn't too late to clue in the clueless to him and old partner Grant McLennan. Maybe Forster could hook up with Johnny Marr.

Playboy, Apr. 1991


Mar. 1991 May 1991