Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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***1/2

NELLIE MCKAY
Obligatory Villagers
Hungry Mouse

The quirky singer keeps things short and sweet -- but never ordinary

In 2005, cabaret upstart Nellie McKay vacated her Columbia deal so she could release Pretty Little Head at sixty-five minutes instead of forty-eight. But on this follow-up, she zigs where she once zagged -- the nine songs last barely half an hour, and they're better for it. Track for track, Obligatory Villagers is no stronger than its predecessor. But things are over so fast that it's carried by its two or three standouts, innumerable charming moments and kooky mood. Announcing itself with an insouciantly sarcastic "Feminists don't have a sense of humor," the piano-bar "Mother of Pearl" serves as an overture to the Broadway orchestrations six horns provide thereafter. The clever lyrics seldom fully parse, not even on the paranoia panorama "Identity Theft" or the enticing fantasia that begins, "Saturday night in the men's ensemble dressing room." They just flesh out a surreal musical you'll never see because the mercurial McKay has already moved on to who knows what other projects -- but would catch if she ever buckled down and finished it.

Rolling Stone, Oct. 4, 2007