Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Playboy Music

Starting in 1982, Lou Reed's second great band made three flinty, lyrical albums that combined jazz chops with a taste for the minimalist rock Reed invented. Unpropitiously, guitarist Robert Quine quit before 1984's New Sensations, and now, on Mistrial (RCA), drummer Fred Maher abandons the pulse to the syndrum programming of bassist Fernando Saunders, always the combo's jazzer. The new songs still rock, but like set pieces, and the lyrics seem more programmatic as well--too often, these reflections and vignettes are generalized ("Video Violence"), insular ("Outside") or not quite there (you choose). Let's hope rock 'n' roll's premier adult isn't getting bored again.

The Ramones' 1985 single "Bonzo Goes to Bitburg" was the outcry of political pain their nonpinhead fans always hoped they had in them and the soaring rock anthem they always hoped they had in themselves. Animal Boy (Sire) has no additional examples of the former and, as a consequence, not enough of the latter. Jean Beauvoir proves himself their most sympathetic outside producer, but not even "Something to Believe In" takes off like "Bonzo," which is clearly what was hoped for it. If only the Ramones could stop squandering their compassion on cartoons and believe in something.

Playboy, Sept. 1986

Aug. 1986 Oct. 1986