Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

N.E.R.D.: In Search of . . . [Virgin, 2002]
I only understood why I so dislike this annoyingly catchy record when I realized the name isn't an acronym. They call themselves N.E.R.D. because nerds is what they are--nerds at their worst. Sure they're clever, but they're also as shallow as Britney Spears, who I swear they're dumb enough to want to fuck, and all they know about the world is that they deserve to run it because they're clever. Ben Folds is Richard Rorty by comparison, and though I prefer their beats to Dre's beats, once again said beats fail to render the accompanying fantasies (and realities) of sexual domination palatable (or clever) (and I'm not so sure about sexual). The final blow is this American re-recording, which substitutes live instruments for the infernal machines of the U.K. version even though the studio is the only thing they've understood deeply in their short little lives. [Later: But for me the most gratifying surprise of this poll was the Neptunes d/b/a N.E.R.D.'s In Search of . . . , which I now love for the same reasons I panned it in July: Obscenely wealthy, obscenely catchy thugs-by-association rationalize their ethics and throw their dicks around, only they're consumed by doubt and hence honest enough to make themselves look like jerks. As conflicted as Biggie or Ghostface and more self-examined, they'll be ready for the orgiasts whenever it cools down in therre--which is not to claim the orgiasts will be ready for them.] A-