Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Great Plains

  • Born in a Barn [Homestead, 1984] B+
  • Great Plains Naked at the Buy, Sell and Trade [Homestead, 1986] B+
  • Sum Things Up [Homestead, 1987] A-
  • Length of Growth 1981-89 [Old 3C, 2001] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Born in a Barn [Homestead, 1984]
Even though Ron House's whiny monotone gravitates toward the same melody no matter the song, each folk-punk arrangement stands out, and the lyrics show a sense of Americana worthy of a band from Columbus, Ohio--college town, state capital, boondock. Ever since high school I've been waiting for a rock and roll song about Mark Hanna, and I didn't even know it. B+

Great Plains Naked at the Buy, Sell and Trade [Homestead, 1986]
If they don't quite live up to titles like "Chuck Berry's Orphan," "Dick Clark," and "Fertile Crescent," who could? If their organ-drenched four-four jams are objectively boring, they'll make you hum and pat anyway. If the organ-hooked "Letter to a Fanzine" is the sole masterstroke, hard-to-resists are almost legion. And if "Why do punk rock guys go out with new wave girls" is part of the parody, I bet these punk-wavers know the answer from experience. B+

Sum Things Up [Homestead, 1987]
Here Ron House follows through on his titles, sum of them bigger and better than the one on the cover--the projected J.C. Mellencamp cover "Alfalfa Omega" and definitely "Martin Luther King and Martin Luther Drinking," both of whom Ron counts as heroes. Fact is, this English major is bidding to become a Tom Waits or August Darnell of the garage, which could use some lit. Since his thrift-shop finds are purchased to cover rather than adorn his nakedness, his adenoids will never follow Frank's frog to Broadway or Creole's tail to Carnegie Hall. So you'd better catch him at his practice space. Watch out for oil stains. A-

Length of Growth 1981-89 [Old 3C, 2001]
Every goddamn drone and whine Ron House and his Columbus friends ever released, 50 songs that evoke both the punk that set them off and the alt-country they spied coming down the road. Quick, kids, where do the Great Plains start? Well west of Columbus, right? And by the way, who was this Mark Hanna guy? Pol behind four presidents fROMOHIO, two of whom were assassinated and one of whom Great Plains did a song about. Other subjects include Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Martin Luther, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Dick Clark, the fate of the family farm, how bad onetime Voice crit Don Howland has to piss, and, most famously, why punk rock boys go out with new wave girls. Not all of it is great, some of it is barely good, and I doubt even his thesis advisor would listen to House caterwauling 50 straight songs. But he knows that, and he wants you to hear them all anyway--surely you don't think he's in it for the money. A single album by Canton's own Marilyn Manson will cost you more than both CDs. B+