Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Playboy Music

No way Boston's Tom Scholz is a profiteer--not when he's spent six years doing Third Stage (MCA) his way. In fact, even though he's patently reluctant to venture out of the studio retreat he calls home, he's more like a priest of the Church of Latter-Day Arena Rock, perfecting majestic guitar sounds and angelic vocals for hockey-rink cathedrals the world over. And just in case designated singer Brad Delp--or, heaven forbid, Scholz himself--doesn't hear the call to go out among boys and preach the word, Scholz has also designed elegiac melodies suitable to a modern radio ministry. What it all means is known only to adepts. MCA figures there are about 10,000,000 of 'em.

In Britain, shambling has been described as a new movement or, at least, a new revival, though it sounds like a slightly effete variation on the Sixties-style all-guitar pop heard in American garages since before Mitch Easter was a legend. The first three entrants with domestic label deals are all talented young bands, but, like their U.S. counterparts, they tend toward stasis. Hence, The Mighty Lemon Drops will probably end up also-rans, though the tough, uncut edge of their Happy Head (Sire) sets it apart--from, for instance, James's Stutter (Sire), winch redeems itself somewhat by delivering morbidly eccentric lyrics and cutting its peculiar hooks with hints of neopsychedelic chaos. So far, only the Woodentops have more to say musically than is dreamed of in electric jangle and the odd good tune. Their fastest tracks--usually also then earliest ones, sad to say, which is why Well Well Well . . . (Upside) tops the fairly wooden Giant (Columbia)--could be punk without nihilism. Let's hope the cuteness is only a phase.

Playboy, Mar. 1987

Feb. 1987 Apr. 1987