Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Forest for the Trees: Forest for the Trees [DreamWorks, 1997]
The initial temptation is to gush over how trip-hoppy Carl Stephenson was ere world or underworld heard tell of Tricky or DJ Shadow. But in fact this 1993 recording shows its age, most tellingly by assuming that tunes are a good thing. Stephenson cut his studio chops producing rappers--first with the Geto Boys, then the College Boyz, whose hunger for hits transcended petty differences. So when he entered the rock world, he saw no reason to believe that texture and melody were mutually exclusive. And if it turns out that this was naive, well, naivete is one thing that makes this obsession disguised as an album so appealing. Finally, we who prefer Mellow Gold to Odelay have a good idea why. A-