The Dean takes on releases from Parquet Courts, The Coathangers, and Tacocat.
Welcome to Expert Witness with Robert Christgau, the self-proclaimed "Dean of American Rock Critics." He currently teaches at NYU and published multiple books throughout his life. For nearly four decades, he worked as the music editor for The Village Voice, where he created the annual Pazz & Jop poll. Every Friday, Noisey will happily publish his long-running critical column. To learn more about him and his life, read his welcome post here.
Parquet Courts: Human Performance (Rough Trade) Figure the all-jam, all-slack Monastic Living for a metal-machine stumble that sets up this crazy-feeling leap forward—not just driven drones, spare tunes, and catchy sprechgesang, but an album where their art dreams for their straight talk come true. "One Man, No City" really does say something about urban alienation, "Captive of the Sun" about megapolitan avantism, "Steady on My Mind" about long love, "Berlin Got Blurry" about missing someone, "Two Dead Cops" about police brutality, "Paraphrased," I mean it, about signification and its disconnects. Uncle Lou would be so proud. Our little garage punks are growing up. A
The Coathangers: Nosebleed Weekend (Suicide Squeeze) Although they have the balls to open their breakthrough album with the midtempo songpoem "Perfume," this all-woman Atlanta trio are ready to rule American punk, as they proved when they set a roomful of Bushwick coolsters moshing on April Fool's Eve. Live or on record, hoo-hooing guitarist Julia Kugel and gravel-voiced drummer Stephanie Luke are happy to cheerlead a happy mob through three-chord dithyrambs of fury, frustration, and love hard love: "Hiya," "Dumb Baby," "Make It Right," you bet. Of course there are slower ones—even the Ramones did slower ones. "Perfume" could turn into a singalong quick. A MINUS
Tacocat: Lost Time (Hardly Art) There's a clueless bohemian chauvinism about the thematically irregular, melodically irresistible lead single "I Hate the Weekend." I mean, aren't the drunken loudmouths who overrun Emily Nokes's hood—"Got a hall pass from your job / Just to act like a fuckin' slob"—damn near as, well, oppressed as the retail-trade "working stiffs" who bring them their comestibles and consumables? Nor is the X-Files-themed opener exactly cutting-edge. So on what could be the breakout album I'm pretty sure they deserve anyway, the winners are the back-loaded "Talk," with its brooding "stay true to your phone," and "Men Explain Things to Me," which I hope requires no further elucidation. And all the way at the end comes the capper: "Take your time because / It's your time to take / And the values that you want / Are the ones that you create." OK then. A MINUS
Tacocat: NVR (Hardly Art) The way I figure it, a feminist band who write a surfing song about menstruation called "Crimson Wave" and then swap in the alternate joke circumlocution "communists in the summer house" can do no wrong. But that doesn't mean they get everything right. I'd make the hit-to-meh ratio on this 2014 album two-to-one or a little less, and inconveniently, the mehs include the lead "You Never Came Back." Sure shots: "Hey Girl" ("You're just a sweaty jerk"), "F.U. #8" (her ride is late again), and "Psychedelic Quinceañera" (half-Mexican Consuela does 15 her way). A MINUS
Downtown Boys: Full Communism (Don Giovanni) Providence organizer organizes blistering, sax-fed political punk for people who believe Bernie can conjure single payer just by wanting it so much ("Break a Few Eggs," "Poder Elegir," "Dancing in the Dark") *
Gazebos: Die Alone (Hardly Art) Independent women who are getting too old for this shit, and feeling it ("Die Alone," "There Are Worse Things I Could Do") *
Swim Team: Swim Team (Infinity Cat) From the budding alt-rock Athens of Cincinnati, Ohio, three hairy thrash-pop guys help one bebanged post-riot grrrl work out her frustrations ("I'm Fine," "Reanimator") *