Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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On Elastica (DGC), three London women conspire with a male drummer to recreate an avant-pop style so ancient that teenyboppers in that trend-ridden city aren't aware it ever existed. That's right, folks, ride our time machine all the way back to--gasp!--1978. Tightly wound postpunk songsmiths like the Buzzcocks Wire and are all the rage, while similarly configured girl bands like the Slits can barely strum their instruments. Elastica put it together. Unfailingly fast, catchy, and saucy, they aren't virtuosos, but they sure can wind it tight. Not only that, they're easier to take than its models--because even if those models are history, their innovations are now part of everyone's language.

Fronting the Go-Betweens with Robert Forster, Australian-born citizen of the world Grant McLennan was the facile one in a band that evolved into a song-lovers' religion--and also into a real band, which is why the tunefulness of his first three solo albums couldn't conceal their lack of tension. But on Horsebreaker Star (Beggars Banquet), the tunes simply take over. The 19 tracks (the U.K. version is a double CD with 24) vindicate the long discredited L.A. singer-songwriter leader-with-backup aesthetic. The songs roll out so effortlessly that you end up more taken with McLennan's accrued eloquence than with its felt, pithy, inexorably melodic components.

On Above and Below (Epicure), New York percussionist Leon Parker applies deceptively simple polyrhythms to a fetching batch of original tunes, cut for context with well-chosen Monk and Ellington chestnuts. Call it jazz from a worldbeat perspective. Hard to resist.

Playboy, Feb. 1995

Jan. 1995 Mar. 1995