Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Raincoats

  • The Raincoats [Rough Trade, 1980] B+
  • Extended Play [Smells Like, 1994] *
  • Looking in the Shadows [Geffen, 1996] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

The Raincoats [Rough Trade, 1980]
In their dubious pro-am musicianship and unavoidably spacy ambience, both of Rough Trade's very modern girl groups recall late-'60s art-rock of the Cantabrigian school--Kevin Ayers, Soft Machine, that ilk. But where Essential Logic also recalls art-rock of the Juilliard school, the Raincoats' punk-goes-folk-rock feels friendly even in its arty hostility. If the tentativeness of the rhythms and vocals is accentuated by the medium tempos they prefer, the unevenness of their songwriting means some of it is very good. Sure the multiple genderfuck "Lola" is what sucks you in, but you may end up preferring the other side. As with Lora Logic's sax, the signature and hook is Vicky Aspinall's violin, which she saws rather than plays. B+

Extended Play [Smells Like, 1994]
sui generis after all these years ("Don't Be Mean," "No One's Little Girl") *

Looking in the Shadows [Geffen, 1996]
I hate to be schematic, but they ask for it: for the first 10 tracks, the songs alternate in lockstep, Ana Da Silva-Gina Birch and forgettable-remarkable. What puts this comeback over the top is that the last two go Birch-Da Silva remarkable-remarkable--the literal "Love a Loser," which should be a single if only because the infertility fantasy and the old-age fantasy and even the pretty fantasy are a little too remarkable for MTV, and Da Silva's title tune, which summons empathy for a jilted stalker who ends up getting hold of his fantasies. And as always, only at a higher level of instrumental expertise, the band's musical charms are coextensive with its limitations. B+