Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Drive-By Truckers: The Unraveling [ATO, 2020]
"Don't give up the fight and never stop chasing the dream. Vote and Resist," advises "raised liberal in Alabama" Patterson Hood, who doesn't always find it easy to keep his own head up. So after two nonstop winners in the Obama years of 2014 and 2016 comes this somewhat more halting album, which follows three elusive personal tracks by Hood and his old pal Mike Cooley with six of the kind of protest songs elite aesthetes are too tasteful and chickenshit to try for. "Thoughts and Prayers," "Babies in Cages," and "21st Century USA" announce their topics up front, so bitter and detailed they make you mad there aren't more out there. In "Heroin Again" that "again" references not an old buddy's relapse but a young OD's regression into the corniest and deadliest of the killer opiates. Cooley's "Grievance Merchants" roots white supremacism in the insecurities of incel crybabies and unloved old men. And the stately nine-minute Hood closer "Awaiting Resurrection" is part dirge, part hymn, part confession, part manifesto. A-