Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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whitechocolatespaceegg (Matador/Capitol), Liz Phair's first new album in four years, finds the girl-rock shooting star poised to be recognized as nothing more but nothing less than the imaginative, eccentric singer-songwriter she always was. She still writes from a distinctly female perspective--even when she's impersonating men, as she does on two songs about girls and one about a son's daunting birthright. But the prim, outspoken raunch that made her notorious is down to a few hints. And none of these is as memorable as Go On Ahead's resigned analysis of a marriage strained by the birth of a child, or What Makes You Happy's assurances that this guy is the one, or Girls' Room's dream of high school--or as Uncle Alvarez, about a con man hanging from the family tree. Phair has a rare gift for evoking middle-class life in spare, arresting songs, and she knows sex is part of that. But the whole life is what interests her.


From kiddie kings Kris Kross to queen mother Areha Franklin, producer Jermaine Dupri has been one of the forces who has revitalized black pop with hip hop attitudes and techniques. On his supposed solo debut, Life in 1472 (So So Def), he remains mostly in the background, handing the mike to rappers ranging from legendary old-schooler Slick Rick to 1998 hitmaker DMX, with femme input provided by Da Brat, Li'l Kim, and others. The result is crass and clever, arrogant and catchy--a celebration of living large that's hard to resist even if you don't approve.


Anybody who's ever called in sick with the rockin' pneumonia or the boogie-woogie flu owes New Orleans's Huey "Piano" Smith, whose rollicking excursions with his well-named Clowns are collected on the perfect, budget-priced This Is . . . Huey "Piano" Smith (Music Club). The follow-up to Rockin' Pneumonia? Why, High Blood Pressure, of course.

Playboy, July 1998


June 1998 Aug. 1998