Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Chicks

  • Gaslighter [Columbia, 2020] A-

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Gaslighter [Columbia, 2020]
As with the awkward name change itself (how about Ditsy Chicks? Triscuit Chips?), there's a pro forma feel to these group-credited, Natalie Maines-dominated songs--the Antonoff effect, call it. And though this has to be the first country album ever to mention the capitol of Finland--Helsinki, which hosted that Trump-Putin summit in 2017--it's nonetheless awkward that a country trio who made their name and ruined their reputation by dissing the Iraq war should hook their first album in eight years to the tribulations of divorce smack in the middle of the most fraught political moment of their lifetimes. But old oppressions don't leave you alone just because new ones are breathing down your collective neck. So any listener who chooses to pay attention is free to conclude that Maines has never written with more righteous anger and sisterly concern--more humanity. There are many highlights after the grabber of a title song. "My Best Friend's Weddings" for justifying its title even better than "Tights on My Boat" does, "Sleep at Night" for expanding on "My husband's girlfriend's husband just called me up/How messed up is that?" "Julianna Calm Down" for arguing that compassion is stronger than rage, as in this fraught political moment we so hope it is. A-