Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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  • Lunapark [Elektra, 1992] A-
  • Slide [Elektra, 1993] A-
  • Bewitched [Elektra, 1994] **
  • Penthouse [Elektra, 1995] A
  • Luna EP [No. 6, 1996] Neither
  • Pup Tent [Elektra, 1997] A-
  • The Days of Our Nights [Jericho/Sire, 1999] **
  • Romantica [Jetset, 2002] ***
  • Close Cover Before Striking [Jetset, 2002] A-
  • Rendezvous [Jetset, 2004] *

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Lunapark [Elektra, 1992]
Reedy, velvet, chilly, and feelful though it may be, I doubt I'd like this so much if Galaxie 500 sad sack and smart person Dean Wareham weren't fed up with his stupid sad-sack friends: "You're always loaded/Your life has imploded." I also like his perspective on his own bad character--a record that begins "You can never give/The finger to the blind" can't get too serious, or too nice. I like how the drummer pushes the music away from the slough of despond. And of course I like the guitar, which is pretty and ugly in all the right places. A-

Slide [Elektra, 1993]
More than a stopgap, by addition (one guitar) and subtraction (one superscript 2). Who cares if the best cut on the EP is the best cut on the LP and the three runners-up are all covers--Velvets/Dream Syndicate/Beat Happening, yet. Every song is good, and several are fast. I do believe Dean Wareham wants people to type the group's name right as a first step toward putting it in lights. A-

Bewitched [Elektra, 1994]
Pale Blue Eyes play ambient alternative ("Friendly Advice," "Going Home") **

Penthouse [Elektra, 1995]
"If the war is over/And the monsters have won/If the war is over/I'm gonna have me some fun," confides born noncombatant Dean Wareham, whose only recorded partisan act is rooting for Nixon to expire. Wareham creates his music from the vantage of a slacker of independent means. Once darkness falls, all Manhattan (or Tacoma, Brussels, wherever he gets to tour) is his playground. But he spends most of his life in what sure sounds like a high-rise, where he drinks in the afternoon, wheedles his good-for-nothing girlfriends, studies his record collection, and cooks up guitar parts. Being as he's discovered the Go-Betweens, that seems like redeeming social value enough for me. A

Luna EP [No. 6, 1996] Neither

Pup Tent [Elektra, 1997]
Within the cushy parameters of the smoothness that is Dean Wareham's spiritual discipline, this sonic construction is all stakes and clothesline, relishing the jerrybuilt almost as much as Penthouse did the luxurious. It's still hooky pop as well-savored guilty pleasure, still undercut by Wareham's pleasantly alienated lyrics. But voice and guitars sound more, well, tentative (get it?). Having given his all to the marketplace and stood there bemused as they gave him Smashing Pumpkins back, he isn't throwing in the towel yet. But damned if he's going to hire a cleaning service just to have people over for drinks. A-

The Days of Our Nights [Jericho/Sire, 1999]
downsized no, privatized yes ("Sweet Child o' Mine," "U.S. Out of My Pants!"). **

Romantica [Jetset, 2002]
in which schemes replace dreams and shadows on the wall head for a fall ("René Is Crying," "Orange Peel") ***

Close Cover Before Striking [Jetset, 2002]
Once it seemed they'd roll out good songs in perpetuity, then that they'd struggle competently till near misses did them part. Now it's talent will out. The best of these seven songs is a Stones cover, only not by as much as you first think, and the second-best is the opener, ditto. Later a teenager hypnotizes a pancake while getting a girl to stick his hand down her did-he-say-pants. Later a guitar instrumental justifies the title "Drunken Whistler." Later there's an alibi, a song that namechecks New Haven, and a guitar instrumental that justifies the title "Neon Lights" until a lyric takes over the job. A-

Rendezvous [Jetset, 2004]
Confidence, languor, fatigue--having established all three, they average them and say goodbye ("Speedbumps," "Astronaut"). *