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Expert Witness with Robert Christgau

Robert Christgau on 'The Bob's Burgers Music Album' as Avant-Garde Art

The Dean of American Rock Critics reviews the Fox cartoon's 112-track compilation album and finds something not entirely unmusical.

Robert Christgau

The self-proclaimed "Dean of American Rock Critics," Robert Christgau was one of the pioneers of music criticism as we know it. He was the music editor at theVillage Voice for almost four decades where he created the trusted annual Pazz & Jop Poll. He was one of the first mainstream critics to write about hip-hop and the only one to review Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water with one word: "Melodic." On top of his columns, he has published six books, including his 2015 autobiography, Going Into the City . He currently teaches at New York University. Every week, we publish Expert Witness, his long-running critical column. To read more about his career, read his welcome post; for four decades of critical reviews, check out his regularly updated website.

The Bob's Burgers Music Album (20th Century Fox/Sub Pop/Bento Box) For two hours or so, cartoon characters led unofficially by a mother played by a man sing or act out 107 tracks that clatter by so fast barely a pop-rock tunelet will stick with you. On my initial foray I had to stop midway through the first disc even though I was enjoying myself—it was that hectic, that fundamentally unmusical. Nor am I a special fan of the show, although I find it cool enough. But before long I discovered that when choosing music to do chores to, say, I couldn't resist expending more time on an album I'd slotted as unreviewable and deduced that it wasn't unreviewable after all. Now past five plays on both discs, I'm still chuckling at jokes I know and catching new ones, and in some vaguely avant-garde way no longer finding the thing unmusical. Instead all this song-plus-dialogue stop-and-go functions as an aural simulacrum of a two-parents-three-kids family that recalls neither my childhood in that precise situation nor my own parenting history. It's cartoonish, hence zanier. Yet this "sincerely silly character-driven music," as the notes put it, transfigures the chaos that inflects so many of our daily doings. Recommended starter tracks: "I've Got a Yum Yum," "Kill the Turkey," "The Nice-Capades," "Buckle It Up," "Equestranauts Theme," "Mononucleosis." Less thematic: the Quiet Storm parody "Whisper in Your Eyes" and the pickup artist bringdown "The Prince of Persuasia." A MINUS

Howsla (Owsla) I haven't ALL-CAPPED the title of this Skrillex-generated producer/DJ compilation because it's not an acronym. It's a pun that yokes the artiste-antrepreneur's Watership Down-derived label name to various developments in house‑-the dance genre, not that place that's not a home. This being Skrillex, assume the genre's ideologues are having none of it. I have no plans to dance to it myself. But to get me through my cardio regimen or even spur a piece of what we homebodies call housework, its obstreperous pulse and novelty vocals do the trick. B PLUS

Kill the Noise: Occult Classic (Owsla) I admit it and in fact am proud of it—the tracks I love from Skrillex's rightful heirs are the one with the novelty vocals ("I Do Coke," "Kill It 4 the Kids," "Dolphins on Wheels") ***

Brexit Blues (Riverboat) The British dullards who rejected the EU aren't mere racists, because like Britons since there's been a Britain they look down on any human who isn't one, so here brighter Britons prove just how good for the environment Poles, Greeks, Serbs, etc. can be (Olcay Bayir, "Jarnana"; Kristi Stassinopoulou & Stathi Kalyviotis, "Erhetai Heimonas (Winter Is Coming") **

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