Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Kirsty MacColl

  • Electric Landlady [Charisma, 1991] Neither
  • Galore [Capitol, 1995] A-
  • Tropical Brainstorm [Instinct, 2001] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Electric Landlady [Charisma, 1991] Neither

Galore [Capitol, 1995]
Be they folk, pop, or country--or hybrid, like this second-generation folkie come of age in postpunk Thatcherland--purebred song hounds have lower standards than we who demand more of music than a catchy lyric. Which makes compilations just the place to catch up. In a decade and a half she's written 'em and picked 'em, adapting to spare guitars and big keybs, Latin and rap, Shane McGowan and Johnny Marr. She has a political mind and a personal life, high times and second thoughts. Music hounds will enjoy making her acquaintance. A-

Tropical Brainstorm [Instinct, 2001]
Ewan's pride was always a folkie in her bones, a singer whose acute arrangements were dulled by prefunk grooves. That's why the sauciest songs on her Galore best-of sound a little fusty, and also why this Latin-inspired and -flavored return to the studio seemed like nothing to get worked up about. (Remember Rei Momo? By David Byrne? Right.) Making no claims for the clave of her same old Brit backing guys, she soars like she never has anyway. She always had attitude, but whether she's stalking a fan gone "to a record store/To buy a CD by some other girl not me" or walking all over some Limey masochist in her most impractical shoes, these songs are so loose and raunchy they live the carnival cliche of life-giving rhythm "Mambo de la Luna" stakes its video on. The saxophone-and-autoharp finale is a return to foggy London town even though most of the album takes place there, the non-Latin bonus tracks are letdowns, and MacColl's death in the Caribbean last December hurts every time she ai-yi-yis about what a slut she turned out to be. A-