Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Paranoid Style: For Executive Meeting [Bar/None, 2022]
The only sensible way to categorize the five dozen or so concise, literate, unfailingly catchy mid-tempo-plus songs Elizabeth Nelson has eked out or poured forth over the past decade is to slot them as pop-rock. Although she's as well-informed politically as any rocker or even rapper at our disposal--Jon Langford, can we say? a Randy Newman too punctilious to finish what he starts? Carsie Blanton or Dawn Oberg to get more obscure?--she limits the subject matter on her most playable album yet to the arts. Among the topics she addresses or at least names she drops are Steve Cropper, Ernest Hemingway, Harry Smith, XTC, Charles Bissell of the long lamented Wrens, album illustrator Barney Bubbles, half-witting Nazi collaborator P.G. Wodehouse, and partner Tim Bracy's overdue tribute to the Velvet Underground's secret weapon, Doug Yule. When she closes with a cover of Rosanne Cash's indelible "Seven Year Ache" it seems barely an upgrade technically. Her craft is that sure. But it may well leave you with the feeling that there are emotional places her music has yet to venture. A