Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Jeffrey Lewis & the Voltage

  • Bad Wiring [Don Giovanni, 2019] A-

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Bad Wiring [Don Giovanni, 2019]
Lewis's folk-rock has the usual musical limitations: strophic and strummed, it proceeds in a straight line with scarcely a bridge to the final iteration of a chorus catchier than the verse, with Lewis's nagging East Village sprechgesang fusing built-in sarcasm with earned yearning. But half the verses proceed so hummably you could call them catchy, which gives the album room to let the rest sink in at a more leisurely pace. The "And about our relationship" refrain of "My Girlfriend Doesn't Worry" will have you replaying the album instantly, the better to shake hands with the tragic alt-everything takeoff "Exactly What Nobody Wanted" and the pre-vinyl-revival "LPs," followed next time by "Except for the Fact That It Isn't" and "Dogs of My Neighborhood." And eventually you'll realize that the statement of principle here is "Take It for Granted," a cliche Lewis has learned to appreciate. In this frightening time, he's old enough to have figured out that the shock of the new isn't always an up while something that'll be there next time can be. And in this vinyl-reviving time he's packaged the CD with a cartoonist's art-directed intricacy that mere downloaders would never guess was there without me kvelling about it. A-