Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Asylum Street Spankers

  • Spanks for the Memories [Watermelon, 1996] Choice Cuts
  • The Asylum Street Spankers [Watermelon, 1997] *
  • Hot Lunch [Cold Spring, 1999] Neither
  • Spanker Madness [Spanks-a-Lot, 2000] ***
  • My Favorite Record [Bloodshot, 2002] Choice Cuts
  • Mercurial [Spanks-a-Lot, 2005] B+
  • What? And Give Up Show Biz? [Yellow Dog, 2008] A-
  • God's Favorite Band [Yellow Dog, 2009] Choice Cuts
  • The Last Laugh [Yellow Dog, 2014] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Spanks for the Memories [Watermelon, 1996]
"Startin' to Hate Country"; "Funny Cigarette" Choice Cuts

The Asylum Street Spankers [Watermelon, 1997]
like the Squirrel Nut Zippers only older, funnier, and named after a Texan Candy Barr ("Mama Don't Allow," "Chinatown") *

Hot Lunch [Cold Spring, 1999] Neither

Spanker Madness [Spanks-a-Lot, 2000]
Fun with reefer--it's so relaxin' ("It's Dry Down Here," "Beer"). ***

My Favorite Record [Bloodshot, 2002]
"My Favorite Record" Choice Cuts

Mercurial [Spanks-a-Lot, 2005]
At their most forced when Christina Marrs plays up the sex angle--"Mojo Working," "Sugar in My Bowl"--and their most audacious when they mix genres big-time, as in the (uncredited) "interpolations" (as they say on hip-hop albums, where money might change hands) of Skynyrd's "Gimme Three Steps" into "Hick Hop" and Jim Carroll's "People Who Died" into "Tight Like That," this nouveau jug band from Austin T-X outdoes itself on three punkier covers: a letter-perfect "Dance This Mess Around" (B-52's, kidz), a modernized "TV Party" (Black Flag), and, best of all, a gun-toting "Paul Revere," complete with "Beastie Boys Boogie" coda. B+

What? And Give Up Show Biz? [Yellow Dog, 2008]
Two hours of live double prove how fulfilling it can be to shovel up behind the elephant. Originals from their mildly likable post-jug catalogue celebrate beer and toking up with your baby in the morning. Tuvan throat tricks augment songs about a CIA agent and the meth-head next door. A few flat old-timey standards leave you grateful to let your mind wander. And weaving the songs together is the patter. Top track: a long, carefully plotted ensemble tale about how their bus lost its brakes just after cresting a hill. "Amazing Grace" follows, then Nilsson's "Think About Your Troubles." Both sound perfect. A-

God's Favorite Band [Yellow Dog, 2009]
"Volkswagen Thing" Choice Cuts

The Last Laugh [Yellow Dog, 2014]
This farewell album from an alt-folk aggregation that never got out of Austin begins so casually and changes up so abruptly it risks disorienting old fans while putting off new ones. Eventually, however, it jazzed me and touched me throughout. It's not just that they dazzle on multiple acoustic instruments while joking around as usual. It's the way Christina Marrs oversings a song worthy of her many passions on the questing "Ludicrous Heart." The way third wheel Nevada Newman just figures "Fuck Work." And especially the way Charlie King tops an acidly secular "Don't You Hear Jerusalem Moan" ("The Catholic preacher makes a lot of noise / He's down in the rectory altering the boys") with the unabashed sentiment of "Savor Every Day": "I had this real good friend of mine / He told me, Charlie, I may not be here for a long time / But I am here for a good time / I sure miss that friend of mine." A-