Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Billy Bragg & Wilco

  • Mermaid Avenue [Elektra, 1998] A
  • Mermaid Avenue II [Elektra, 2000] A-

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Mermaid Avenue [Elektra, 1998]
Here's this Brit folksinger, a punk by heritage and a pop star by ambition whose most salient talent is how guiltlessly he mixes up the three. And here's this middle-American alt band, folkies by sensibility and pop pros by ambition whose most salient talent is a musicality they don't know what to do with. With the wisdom of half a century's ripoffs behind them, both are more resourceful melodically than the icon whose thousands of unpublished lyrics they were chosen to make something of. So be glad he kept the tunes in his head. Because while the words are wonderful and unexpected--author of several published books and reams of journalism, Woody Guthrie might have made his mark in any literary calling--it's the music, especially Wilco's music, that transfigures the enterprise. Projecting the present back on the past in an attempt to make the past signify as future, they create an old-time rock and roll that never could have existed. Finally--folk-rock! A

Mermaid Avenue II [Elektra, 2000]
See: Folksinger, Wordslinger, Start Me a Song. A-

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