THE CURE: Disintegration (Elektra)
With the transmutation of junk a species of junk itself, an evasion available to any charlatan or nincompoop, it’s tempting to ignore this patent arena move altogether. But by pumping his bad faith and bad relationship into depressing moderato play-loud keyb anthems far more tedious than his endless vamps, Robert Smith does actually confront a life contradiction. Not the splintered relationship, needless to say, although the title tune is a suitably grotesque breakup song among unsuitably grotesque breakup songs. As with so many stars, even “private” ones who make a big deal of their “integrity,” Smith’s demon lover is his audience, now somehow swollen well beyond his ability to comprehend, much less control. Hence the huge scale of these gothic cliches. And watch out, you mass, ’cause if you don’t accept this propitiation he just may start contemplating suicide again. Or take his money and go home. C PLUS
Obviously, this album is a classic; like The Pixies and Depeche Mode, Robert Smith’s mutable outfit contemporaneously enjoyed a concurrence of of artistic and commercial apotheosis. Christgau almost fathoms cynical marketing, but seldom music, hence this momentary meditation on Smith’s presumed careerism. The album? Who knows. Speaking of the boys from Basildon…
Violator [Sire/Reprise, 1990]
Fearing the loss of their silly grip on America’s angst-ridden teens, who they’re old enough to know are a fickle lot, they forge on toward the rap market by rhyming “drug” and “thug.” And for the U.K.’s ecstasy-riding teens, who God knows are even more fickle, there’s the techno-perfect synth/guitar sigh/moan that punctuates the easily rescinded “Policy of Truth.” C-
Somebody’s pettish dad heard a few lyrics during a strictly perfunctory spin and clumsily supposed something about “the hip-hop.” Policy of Truth is so unequivocally disposable that it was a radio staple and concert favorite for fifteen years, and nearly three decades later, oldies stations from the rancid northeast through the ‘murkun midwest to the left coast persist to broadcast it.
The Mix [Elektra, 1991]
best-of with the bass boosted–very funktional, meine Herren (“Pocket Calculator,” “The Robots”) ***
Can you imagine receipt of a paycheck for the indolent authorship of an unfunny sentence? Note that scamsters like Boesky or Madoff were actually punished. That’s a not a review. It isn’t an epigram.
Loveless [Sire/Warner Bros., 1991]
If you believe the true sound of life on planet earth is now worse than bombs bursting midair or runaway trains–more in the direction of scalpel against bone, or the proverbial giant piece of chalk and accoutrements–this CD transfigures the music of our sphere. Some may cringe at the grotesque distortions they extract from their guitars, others at the soprano murmurs that provide theoretical relief. I didn’t much go for either myself. But after suitable suffering and peer support, I learned. In the destructive elements immerse. A-
Nota bene: this maladroit fustian was penned by a man who constantly censures pop acts for their pretensions. One might surmise that it’s easier than apprehending MBV’s musicianship. As for (very little about) noise…
Daydream Nation [Enigma/Blast First, 1988]
At a historical juncture we can only hope isn’t a fissure, a time when no sentient rock and roller could mistake extremism in the defense of liberty for a vice, the anarchic doomshows of Our Antiheroes’ static youth look moderately prophetic and sound better than they used to. But they don’t sound anywhere near as good as the happy-go-lucky careerism and four-on-the-floor maturity Our Heroes are indulging now. Whatever exactly their lyrics are saying–not that I can’t make them out, just that catch-phrases like “You’ve got it” and “Just say yes” and “It’s total trash” and “You’re so soft you make me hard” are all I need to know–their discordant never-let-up is a philosophical triumph. They’re not peering into the fissure, they’re barreling down the turnpike like the fissure ain’t there. And maybe they’re right–they were the first time. A
Moore oughtn’t have fretted about Christgau; at least he was amusing when he slammed Sonic Youth, whereas this uninstructive, sophomoric, logorrheic claptrap beggars belief for a middle-aged man. He’s never worse than when he agonizes with all his little might and fails to wax profoundly florid. Whenever I read something tolerable from Christgau, my integrity itself recalls “a philosophical triumph,” and I giggle.
Heart in Motion [A&M, 1991]
Xian Xover queen: “What’s the difference between a PMS’ing woman and a bulldog? Lipstick! See, only a woman can tell that joke.” Don’t be so sure, lady. And note Hits‘s gnostic riposte: “What do you get when you cross an atheist with a dyslexic? Somebody who doesn’t believe in dogs!” C
He might’ve been generous enough to warn her fans that amid all the catchy, snappily produced hits, Hats is among the worst clunkers she’s ever recorded. Of course, the Village Voice was far too kewl and edgy to accommodate a Christer with a review, even if this consistently popular bestseller circulated far more successfully than the paper. Do consider Christgau’s recycled irreverence if you notice that year after year and album after album, he actually takes Kanye West seriously.
The Final Cut [Columbia, 1983]
Though I wish this rewarded close listening like John Williams, Fripp & Eno, or the Archies, it’s a comfort to encounter antiwar rock that has the weight of years of self-pity behind it–tends to add both literary and political resonance. With this band, aural resonance is a given. C+
I’m a Floyd fan who’s dismissed this album for decades, and terse adversion to its burden doesn’t consititute a review.
Cosmic Wheels [Epic, 1973]
Yellow Jell-O, or: didn’t you always know he’d go bananas? C-
Everyone who’s heard three to thirty-eight minutes of this knows it’s heinous, but this gibber isn’t clever.
The Bends [Capitol, 1995]
Admired by Britcrits, who can’t tell whether they’re “pop” or “rock,” and their record company, which pushed (and shoved) this follow-up until it went gold Stateside, they try to prove “Creep” wasn’t a one-shot by pretending that it wasn’t a joke. Not that there’s anything deeply phony about Thom Yorke’s angst–it’s just a social given, a mindset that comes as naturally to a ’90s guy as the skilled guitar noises that frame it. Thus the words achieve precisely the same pitch of aesthetic necessity as the music, which is none at all. C
It could be the last great sensitively posturing rock album, not that Christgau noticed — like any teenage quidnunc, he’s primarily concerned with industry scuttlebutt; whatever residual allusion to The Product he might tender results from whatever was heard in dereliction during routine playback in an adjoining room.
The Very Best of the Doors [Elektra, 2001]
Shaman, poet, lizard king–believe that guff and you’ll miss a great pop band. Ass man, schlockmeister, cosmic slimeball–that’s where Jim Morrison’s originality lies, and he’s never been better represented. Right beneath the back-door macho resides a weak-willed whine as El Lay as Jackson Browne’s, and the struggle between the two would have landed him in Vegas if he hadn’t achieved oblivion in Paris first. Compelling in part because he’s revolting, Jimbo reminds us that some assholes actually do live with demons. His three sidemen rocked almost as good as the Stones. Without him they were nothing. A
As an encapsulation of Jimbo’s act, it’s at least adequate, but he might’ve mentioned something about this (sixth? seventh?) studio compilation’s particular transposition. Even capsule reviewers aren’t paid to blithely expect, “They’ve heard it all, so they pretty much know what they’re getting, I guess.”