Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Shams and Heavenly are unassuming bands featuring women who've been around various alternative scenes. Both debuted with albums, Quilt and Le Jardin de Heavenly, that left a well-meaning fellow hungry for something more substantial. And both followed with EPs designed to convince such a fellow that quiet miniaturists offer their own kind of pleasure, wisdom, and nutritive value.

The Shams' Sedusia (Matador) comprises three astute, exquisite songs on three mature man-woman themes: the urge to leave, the pain of absence, and sex in the erogenous zone between the ears. Not unprecedented as themes, but any man who thinks he has them down should find a more talkative significant other. There's no anger here--the tone is clear, sweet, wry, shading a thoughtful addition to the growing body of music by women who'll reveal what's really on their minds to anyone smart enough to listen.

Heavenly's P.U.N.K. Girl(K) is slyer, meaner, less trusting--maybe less mature, maybe more realistic. Amelia Fletcher's mild garage-rock sound is all girlish innocence, but the title tune is a celebration of punk sisterhood, and in two painful songs her girlish innocent has sex she doesn't want. Not a pretty picture once you get beneath the surface. But more educational than any date-rape regs they can throw at you.

Fast Cuts: On the Afghan Whigs' Gentlemen (Elektra), which has tough things to say about the man's side of the sex wars, Greg Dulli's self-examination is as conflicted as his guitars. 60 Horses in My Herd (Shanachie), by the Central Asian throat singers Huun-Huur-Tu, is even more masculine. Since I don't speak Tuvan, I can't comment on their message. But I like the cut of their swagger.

Playboy, Feb. 1994

Jan. 1994 Mar. 1994