Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Listeners invariably use music to escape from reality, and critics invariably disapprove. In theory, music's supposed to heighten reality, not blot it out. In fact, though, all music is escapist, a symbolic/sensual refuge no matter how hard to take. The test is the alternate reality it creates. Is it soggy like Michael Bolton's? Deceitful like Wilson-Phillips's? Or something more enlightening for returning voyagers?

"Reality used to be a friend of mine," croon the Jersey-City brother duo P.M. Dawn to give you a feel for Of the Heart, of the Soul and of the Cross: The Utopian Experience (Gee Street). They're so fed up with the life they've been handed that they will a rap without street smarts--or street attitude. Beyond De La Soul-style "daisy age," they're like suburban fanzine types holed up with their stereos, except the music the live for is prized less for rarity than for ecumenical reach--their first hit, Set Adrift on Memory Bliss, built off a Spandau Ballet sample. Their escape fuses the Beach Boys with Grandmaster Flash. It can teach if you can learn.

My Bloody Valentine come out of the same poof-to-arty English dance-music scene that gave the Eighties Spandau Ballet, and they've had it with pop pseuds. Instead their trance-disco creates an aural world in which the transport of new age and the ecstatic pain of postpunk guitar converge. The Tremolo EP (Sire/Warner Bros.) is a taste for the fainthearted, but the Loveless album is where they put it together.


Fast Cuts: Digital Underground, Sons of the P (Tommy Boy): how can P-Funk cease to exist when we still have our record collection? Pixies, Trompe le Monde (Elektra/4AD): Before the world fools you.

Playboy, Feb. 1992


Jan. 1992 Mar. 1992