Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Incredibly Strange Music, Vol. 1 [Caroline, 1994]
Despite their claims to "amazing diversity" and "unique and bizarre visions of life," all of these 13 tracks, compiled by Andrea Juno to illustrate the RE/Search issue of the same name, are by white people. Though rhythms tend to the "Latin," all are notably deficient in bottom. The few guitars owe more to Django than Duane, sonorities are up in the whistling-vibraphone-marimba-sitar-theremin range. The two classical covers share a take-that! antirockism with the two songs about dumb teenagers. The only other vocals are Katie Lee's "Will To Fail," from her Songs of Couch and Consultation LP, and Kali Bahlu's spoken-word-with-sitar "Cosmic Telephone Call," a wacky flight of pseudo-Buddhist ecumenicism that's easily Juno's most charming find. Beyond their compulsion to escape pop's Afro-American mainstream, what's most striking about these willfully marginal, grotesquely pomo selections is how suburban they are. Responding directly to the hi-fi boom of the '50s and '60s, conceived by adepts of recorded sound for people who wanted to show off their stereos, they presuppose not merely disposable income but a commitment to affluence that insures the ultimate banality of the CD's concrète-naif sound effects and whoop-de-doo chord changes. It documents not forgotten or "strange" music, but a desperately silly moment in the ongoing history of bohemia, which has been hosting this kind of stunt since the time of the dandies. C