Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Shangri-Las: The Best of the Shangri-Las [Mercury, 1996]
Musically, they lived and died with their producers, notably George "Shadow" Morton, an amateur who on a whim and a dare pared Phil Spector's wall of sound down to bass-drums-guitar. "Remember" and "Leader of the Pack" were three-minute symphonies on the strength of their arrangements rather than their orchestrations--big slow notes and two sets of streetwise sisters throwing themselves into a melodramatic morbidity worthy of Werther. This dark romanticism was without precedent in rock and roll, and the Black Sabbath hordes who took it up later never realized girls got there first. If those girls were gooey inside, especially with Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich feeding them lines, that just deepened the effect--in their final smash, Morton's "I Can Never Go Home Anymore," the passion they expend on a martyred "good mom" is as convincing as anything they ever worked up for a leather-jacketed beau ideal. Archetypes never to be duplicated, they left a dozen songs so monumental that the filler functions as landscaping. A-