Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Why mince words? North Carolina's Archers of Loaf are aesthetes--definitive indie-rockers. Like their perfect little 1993 Icky Mettle, the brand new Vee Vee (Alias) is for connoisseurs--of guitar noise, clever rage, camouflaged catchiness, jagged tempos and dynamics, and guitar noise. As such it will irritate anyone who isn't immersed in the aural world of the alternacircuit and delight anyone who is. Musically and lyrically, it delves deeper into that world, which is often dismissed as mere scene by those who don't know what it is to live for rock and roll. Tough noogs for them, serious fun for the rest of us.

M People's Elegant Slumming (Epic) inspired much stupid talk when it snuck off with Britain's prestigious Mercury Prize last year, and if you too think disco sucks, read no further. Everybody else, do what the judges must have--run it through your head a few times, put it aside for a day, and then concentrate. I personally guarantee that every tune, every beat will present itself as an old friend you hadn't known you missed. The music, by DJ Michael Pickering and bassist Paul Heard, is spare, deep, tricky; the vocals, by diva Heather Small, are rich, soulful, commanding. Not an especially ambitious achievement, granted. Just a flawless one.

Two New York crews with best-selling debuts have toughened their follow-up message without brutalizing it. Digable Planets' Blowout Comb (Pendulum/EMI) emphasizes Afrocentrism and gets a jazzy groove from live musicians. FU-Schnickens' Nervous Breakdown (Jive) shifts focus from kung fu movies to the East Flatbush streets and pulls out the stops on Sum Dum Monkey, as technically breathtaking a rap as you could hope to hear.

Playboy, Jan. 1995

Nov. 1994 Feb. 1995