Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Boulevard of Broken Dreams

  • It's the Talk of the Town and Other Sad Songs [Hannibal, 1989] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

It's the Talk of the Town and Other Sad Songs [Hannibal, 1989]
In which 16 Netherlanders pay pomo tribute to near-tragic pop like "I Cover the Waterfront," "I Get Along Without You Very Well," and "A Cottage for Sale." About half the songs (the earliest from 1927, the latest from 1949) are new to me, and if I'd grown up with the originals, I might find the conceptual distancing a distortion, even a sacrilege. But at this late date it's their salvation. The four vocalists, who betray just enough accent to remind you where they're coming from, honor the era's well-enunciated conventions with care, and Roland Brunt's jazzy sax undercuts the violins without patting itself on the chops. If they were French they'd overdo the camp or the sincerity, but the Dutch have the mercantilist knack of respecting a culture for its natural resources. In fact, at this remove they probably understand it better than we do. A-