Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Beautiful South: Welcome to the Beautiful South [Elektra, 1990]
They're to the Housemartins as General Public was to the English Beat, only General Public stunk up the joint. And though the first two cuts do last 12 minutes, this album isn't soft, sweet, or dead on its feet--it's a killer. Its surface is even more feckless and dulcet than the old guys': drummer-turned-vocalist Dave Hemingway trades sugarlumps with Paul Heaton, who sheathes his political edge. The tempos, the keybs, snazzy new guitarist Dave Rotheray and his sneaky-catchy tuns--all are camouflage for Heaton's righteous self-righteousness and radical unease. Personally, I miss the Marxian animus he's abandoned for attacks on the pop power structure and sarcastic relationship songs. But I'm knocked out that he can progress so naturally from subverting garage-pop to subverting the real thing. He's a sweet, soft force to be reckoned with, and if he wants to camouflage his politics I'm willing to credit his motives. The pop power structure is always worth taking on--if you do it right. A-