Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Rachid Taha: Je Suis Africain [Naïve/Believe, 2019]
Taha was working on this album when he died six days short of his 60th birthday in 2018, and it's not his best. But for someone who was arguably both the greatest French rocker and the greatest Algerian rocker, that's a high standard. Resettled in Lyon at 10, by age 17 he was DJing for roughnecks from both sides of the Mediterranean in a punk era that hadn't yet crossed the channel. Soon enough he was leading a rai-rock band that didn't worry about which was which, and over the years he became a self-made intellectual smart and soulful enough to school himself not just in French thought that added edge to his humanism but in Algerian ballads that added warmth to his grit. After a title track that celebrates such Africans as Mandela, Hendrix, Fanon, Malcolm, Marley, and Derrida follow a cameo for Swiss-Algerian feminist-shaman-autodidact Flèche Love, "Andy Waloo" a/k/a Warhol, songs worthy of the titles "Insomnia" and "Striptease," and his first composition in English, which he designated "Like a Dervish" as he whirled away forever. A-