Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

Consumer Guide:
  User's Guide
  Grades 1990-
  Grades 1969-89
  And It Don't Stop
  Book Reports
  Is It Still Good to Ya?
  Going Into the City
  Consumer Guide: 90s
  Grown Up All Wrong
  Consumer Guide: 80s
  Consumer Guide: 70s
  Any Old Way You Choose It
  Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough
Xgau Sez
  And It Don't Stop
  CG Columns
  Rock&Roll& [new]
  Rock&Roll& [old]
  Music Essays
  Music Reviews
  Book Reviews
  NAJP Blog
  Rolling Stone
  Video Reviews
  Pazz & Jop
Web Site:
  Site Map
  What's New?
Carola Dibbell:
  Carola's Website
CG Search:
Google Search:

This was originally published as exclusive content, in Robert Christgau's And It Don't Stop newsletter. You can have Christgau's posts delivered to your mailbox if you subscribe.

Consumer Guide: February, 2023

High IQ catchiness from Ireland, death defying songs from Australia, persuasive and heartbreaking outtakes from New York City, and some truth and uplift from London.

Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul: Topical Dancer (DeeWee) Light as a bag of popcorn with sea salt but no butter please, Martiniquan-Guadeloupan Adigéry and Belgian-Chinese Pupul split the hair's-breadth between witty and arch, funny and amusant, laugh-a-minute and gigglefritz. This is world-funk lite with a playful show of attitude and occasional touches of moral acuity albeit not quite political specificity. It's gone before you know it, but next time it comes out of the speakers you'll recognize it instantly--and dance to it too if that's your thing. A MINUS[Later: B+]

Carsie Blanton: Wolf (self-released) I find it impossible not to like this woman. Generous sexually and politically in a flow so effortless the two streams feed into each other, set on pleasing a rapt audience big enough to keep her in basic creature comforts, she remains one of a kind, and the seven new songs here, six of them under three minutes, are as coyly relaxed as ever. But as she edges toward 40 I note that the character the EP is named after is big on huffing and puffing and that few would call "You're gonna die some day" a surefire sexual proposition unless convinced that day is coming sooner than they hope or believe. B PLUS

Bo Burnham: Inside (Imperial '21) Although I like to laugh as much as the next person, I don't follow standup. I'd rather listen to music or watch something with a storyline, news value, or both. So there's a sense in which this assortment of 20 songs from the post-hiatus comeback the 30-year-old YouTube phenom wrote and filmed for Netflix is just the right size for me--a comedy album divided into tunelets. From "Facetime With My Mom (Tonight)" and "Unpaid Intern" to "Welcome to the Internet" and "All Eyes on Me" there are chuckles in almost every track, and some of them hurt, as they should. The melodies that Burnham negotiates mildly but adroitly enough add aural variety--there are real songs here. But even so a solid comedy album is what it remains. B PLUS

CMAT: If My Wife New I'd Be Dead (Cmatbaby) Gifted with a high IQ, a wide-open sense of humor, and an exuberant plus-size soprano with no discernible corners in it, Dublinite Ciara Mary Alice Thompson recorded this debut album on her own and did quite well with it in Ireland, where a chorus that went "I'm gonna tell everybody I know that I'm moving to Nashville" was taken literally even after the woman who calls herself "the Mae West of wanting attention" scored her first hit with a song dubbed "Peter Bogdanovich." "Who needs god when I have Robbie Williams?" Ciara Mary Alice wants to know. Also, "Why do I love Philip Larkin?/He would have hated me." And by the way, "Where do they serve the Eucharist on Friday nights?" Thompson's soft consonants and welcoming timbre have so few parallels I find myself reminded of the long-gone howdjados of Melanie's "Brand New Key" and Todd Rundgren's "I Saw the Light" a lot more than of anybody's Music Row twang. So if you can grok why Nashville might not be a perfect fit for this dame, maybe you can also see why she might be a pretty good fit for you--assuming you're always in the market for nothing else like it and plenty catchy to boot. A

Dry Cleaning: Stumpwork (4AD) Not quite a poet and she don't quite know it ("Anna Calls From the Arctic," "Gary Ashby," "Stumpwork") ***

Robert Forster: The Candle and the Flame (Tapete) Driven by nothing less than the specter of death, Forster transcends his melodic limitations with a homemade album indelibly enlivened by the contributions of his family and especially his wife Karin, whose ongoing battle with ovarian cancer enriches even the tracks she's too ill to take part in. The mouth-dropping thriller is an encomium to chemo called "It's Only Poison": "It's written on the bottle, the bottle on the shelf/It's written deep in scripture that you can save yourself/It's only poison meant to drive you mad/It's only poison and it's all they have," Forster croons in his familiar sprechgesang, and while he's at it Karin adds background harmonies that aim for sweet salvation all by themselves. A

S.G. Goodman: Teeth Marks (Verve Forecast) Love is not enough, if love is what it actually is, with melody all too intermittent to lead the way to a conclusive determination ("Teeth Marks," "Work Until I Die") **

Jeffrey Lewis: When That Really Old Cat Dies (Spotify/Amazon/Apple) Downloadable as I write from Amazon and Apple, Lewis designates these seven songs "a dumping ground for tracks I didn't have any other place to put." He first uploaded them to Spotify because he'd been told "that Spotify has internal automatic compression/volume stuff, to standardize all recordings." Unfortunately, he reports, "it seems not to really work--I think the volumes are inconsistent." No audiophile myself, I'd say that's inconsequential given how much I admire these seven selections, mostly outtakes from 2015's Manhattan and 2019's Bad Wiring. The halting, tender title threnody evokes the eccentricities and need for privacy I've observed as my own cats reached their ends. But that's just a beginning here as the songs proceed immediately to the surprisingly persuasive "What I Love Most in England (Is the Food)" and continues from the last-minute birthday party announcement "You're Invited" to the climactic "Guest List Song." Inspirational Verse: "You bought me a brew once in two thousand and two/You did a favor for me and so I did one for you/Yeah I put you on the guest list and I did it on two other occasions/But when you ask the fourth time maybe that's the statute of limitations." A MINUS

Little Simz: No Thank You (Forever Living Originals/AWAL) This girlish Anglo-Nigerian rapper will turn 29 this month, no longer really little in the immature sense. Blessed with a soprano that remains not just cute and articulated but occasionally incisive, she's free to put serious effort into getting past the usual music-biz shortfalls--"Turn wine into water and get blood out of a stone" is how she brags it. And though she was a fighter not a lover last time, she's gotten over that hump: "Don't need much as long as I got my baby he's a rider." So what is it all for, really? "Scrutinized for freeing the truth about the system/All she wanted to do was uplift the women." A MINUS

Billy Nomates: Cacti (Invada) Death doesn't turn her on like it used to, a change of heart she announces up front and converts into spirited yet also acerbic music as she gets madder ("Spite," "Vertigo") ***

Margo Price: Strays (Loma Vista) Of this there is all too little doubt: in the absence of truly enthralled music, lyrics that adduce the dark side bite deeper than lyrics that don't ("Lydia," "County Road") **

Maggie Rogers: Surrender (Capitol) It so happens that in early 2016 I briefly tutored unmistakably bright-and-a-half NYU senior Rogers, whose plan to write an Alanis Morissette 33 1/3 was shelved when Pharrell Williams, then artist in residence at NYU's Clive Davis Institute, heard something in "Alaska" that made her the biggest star the Institute has ever turned out. But it wasn't until early 2019 that Capitol dropped her Heard It in a Past Life album, which I'm not the only one to find overcooked the way multiproduced major-label debuts can be. So I was chuffed to learn that instead of rushing to follow it up Rogers took time off to earn a master's at Harvard Divinity School as she pretty much less simultaneously came up with this cleaner and more focused long-player. Sonically, although with input from Harry Styles producer Kid Harpoon I bet, the music here bears the mark of a singer-songwriter who also leads her own band. Not that it's anything like spare. But despite its orchestral dimensions it projects plenty of detail--strident, yet so intricate that its intensity has a well-wrought delicacy to it. Although the themes are more emotional than erotic, there's plenty of eroticism in there--some spirituality with an appetite for permanence too. At 28, Rogers is no longer any kind of post-teen. You can tell. A MINUS

Rosalía: Motomami (Columbia) Sopranos of this pitch of purity have never evoked anything especially human or humane for me, which since I can't understand a word she's uttering limits how enthusiastically I can get with her inventive spirit and fabulous sound effects ("Bizcochito," "Motomami," "Saoko") ***

Shygirl: Nymph (Because Music) lNo girl shy or otherwise, this Anglo-Grenadian who got her start working as the booker at a modeling agency is soft edges everywhere even when she's earning the right to call a song "Nike" by getting all "hands on my breasts and my batty just do it." Sex and/or sexy is her specialty and her pleasure, but she'd rather murmur about it than make a lot of noise. Embedded in the cushiest of electronics, she cultivates a come-on that always leaves room for a few more frissons. A MINUS

And It Don't Stop, February 8, 2023

January 11, 2023 March 8, 2023