Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Rock and roll will always generate idealistic fools who believe they're creating the world anew every time they set a fresh bunch of cliches to the same old chords. But at root pop is even more recombinant than other arts and crafts, and ever since the advent of the rap sample, a lot of its biggest thrills have been provided by brazen borrowers--young wise-asses who pastiche known stuff together as if it belongs to them, and who mean to make you love it. Because it does belong to them. And you do love it.

On Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (Matador) and Mellow Gold (DGC), Pavement and Beck exploit this process as sarcastically, gleefully, and impressively as any newcomers in memory. Pavement are hermetic cellar-dwellers out of Stockton, California, Beck a garrulous folkie punk from to L.A. Pavement is longer on sarcasm, Beck on glee. Pavement obscures its lyrics a la Mick Jagger, Beck spills them out a la Bobby D. Pavement's music is immersed in the rock canon, while Beck favors ethnic touches--slide guitar, Afro-choruses, even hip hop moves. But both provide hooks and beats galore.

Neither act shows any desire to compete with Eddie Vedder in the oh-my-tragic-soul department, and no doubt both will seem too smarty-pants to some. But close to the surface of their virtuosic sound collages flows a melodic lyricism guaranteed to touch any heart connected to a brain, which I've always been told is the way souls work. These records won't just be noticed. They'll be remembered.


Fast Cuts: The tough young r&b of Little Willie John, who originated Fever, and the soulful doowop and rockish guitar of the Five Royales, who originated Dedicated to the One I Love, are only the cream of Rhino's new King series, which also features the smooth suffering of Roy Brown and the slick swagger of Wynonie Harris.

Playboy, Mar. 1994


Feb. 1994 Apr. 1994