Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Since 1986, the Pet Shop Boys' saga has lengthened every few years with yet another exquisite album of tunefully theoretical pop disco, a concept that in Britain generated real-life hits like those on the 1991 compilation Discography. Listeners who don't already know what a sly fellow dulcet-voiced singer-reciter-musicmeister Neil Tennant can be may find his current professions of romantic responsibility a little soft. But those who've followed his progress from young homme fatal to established adult waiting for his inamorata to stop running around will love the lead refrain of the luscious new Nightlife (Sire): "For your own good/Call me tonight." They'll feel the rueful pain of self-explanatory titles like You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You're Drunk and Happiness Is an Option. Granted, Tennant is explicitly gay, and an arrant wimp besides. People who believe music can't be strong without balls, guts, and such have never cared if he lives or dies. Grownups, however, know better.

On their first major-label release, the multihit Enema of the State (MCA), Blink 182 prove for the dozenth time that reports of punk's death have been greatly exaggerated--that in fact the hard-fast style has become one of many pop staples. Wrecking relationships with adolescent hijinks and running away from anyone who comes on strong, they also demonstrate more forcefully than any predecessor how scared punks are of girls beneath their faux-macho bluster. Tuneful and educational.

Charlie Burton is an ex-journalist turned ex-alcoholic who's been writing hilarious songs for a basic rock and roll band since the mid-'70s. One Man's Trash (Bulldog) showcases the best of them, including Breath for Me, Presley (early Dr. Nick tribute) Major Turnoff (not his interstate exit) and Rabies Shot (ow!).

Playboy, Oct. 1999

Sept. 1999 Nov. 1999