Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Red Hot + Blue: A Tribute to Cole Porter [Chrysalis, 1990]
Although only Shane MacGowan, David Byrne, and Debbie & Iggy have ever been identified professionally with punk, only the Jungle Brothers--whose suave rap, unlike Neneh Cherry's gauche one, ignores Cole Porter altogether--would exist as we know them without it. From U2 to K.D. Lang to Sinead O'Connor, from Tom Waits to Salif Keita to the Neville Brothers, they've all built their market shares in fissures of taste and heightened expectation that punk opened up. And this is where punk's fierce certainty that "rock" is never enough ends up--in the suspicion that the "rock" punk changed utterly and not at all is actually a historical phase of "pop." Rarely has the pomo practice of trashing history while you honor it reached such a pitch of accomplishment. The songs are so strong that they remain Porter's whether Waits is bellowing one to death or the Fine Young Cannibals are rearranging one to a draw or Lisa Stansfield is literalizing one to within an inch of its printed lyric. Inevitably, there are duds, but listen enough and they shift on you. The recontextualizations--O'Connor's gravid "You Do Something to Me," Keita's Mandinka "Begin the Beguine," Erasure's electrodance "Too Darn Hot"--are for the ages. A