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:

Playboy Music

Marianne Faithfull attained her pop moment with Jagger-Richards' "As Tears Go By," achieved cult-heroine status with her scabrous 1979 LP Broken English and then settled into a formula that made cynicism its subject and was favored by connoisseurs of rock divadom. On Strange Weather (Island), producer Hal Willner continues that last trend by putting Faithfull's songwriting on hold and handing her world-weary material, from Jerome Kern's "Yesterdays" to "Hello Stranger," a new one by the Doctors Pomus and John. Borrowing backups from Tom Waits and Lou Reed, Willner proves that pop realism can transcend the blues tradition. Which is not to say that the two are incompatible? check out Faithfull's a cappella Leadbelly interpretation.

Sonic Youth came up in the postpunk confusion of Los Angeles hard-core and New York no wave. Dominated by hulking guitarist Thurston Moore and crazed bassist Kim Gordon, these self-promoting bohemian obsessives developed their bracing guitar sound playing Glenn Branca's "rock symphonies," then cultivated an undisciplined-to-shapeless expressionism that other bohemians find sexy. Me, I've never gone for Squeaky Fromme. But on 1986's EP Starpower and their new LP Sister (both SST), I hear the point. Gordon's vocal on the tranced-out breakdown "Pacific Coast Highway" makes me understand why some guys (and gals) get off on obsessives. Mostly, though, I like this record's sound--and its shape, which permits this skeptic to follow the sound through. Like Strange Weather, it's a respite from conventional rock 'n' roll that can make a rock-'n'-roller's day.

Playboy, Dec. 1987

Nov. 1987 Jan. 1988