Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Dramarama: Color TV [Pasadena, 2020]
Pop savant John Easdale long ago relocated from New Jersey to California with the same two guitarists he'd known since he was a kid, and there picked up a new rhythm section that's been with him ever since. So after 35 years, Dramarama remain a true band no matter how often they play out. But synergy isn't the main reason their first album in 15 years is the finest of an impressively consistent career. Because he kept writing songs, Easdale had a lot of new material to choose from as the band gradually recorded the pieces of an album he conceived as the kind of short story collection that coheres into a whole. In an apolitical opener, the "our" in "no cure for our disease" means everybody, and that all too politically relevant mood gathers gradated tone and bitter detail as the collection proceeds. Easdale's casually unslurred vocals have gotten breathier as he hits his sixties, and his lyrics also soften slightly on their way to three devotional love songs: from "I'll never tell you how to talk" and "I'll still be there when you get old" to "We ate bugs and stayed off drugs and played canasta in the dark" and "You're the only one and we're still having fun" to "There's everybody else and then there's you, you, you." Sadly, however, the album ends with Elliott Smith's bereft "Half Right." As was Smith's depressive way, it allows us to interpret at will. But it bodes poorly for "you, you, you." A