The Dean of American Rock Critics takes on Nashville trio Daddy Issues' two studio LPs and Girlpool's new record, 'Powerplant.'
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 the Village 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.
Daddy Issues: Can We Still Hang (Infinity Cat) On their 2015 debut, this Nashville grrrl-grunge trio hit the bratty thing square on its pink-haired noggin. From stupid boyfriend to thrilling girlcrush, from toughing out the bruise to impressing the coolster, from creepy to ugly to out to lunch in this shitty world, they're tough and trash-mouthed and so needy it hurts. Of course these eight songs are good for a laugh—it's in the contract they believe they'll one day sign. But right at the outset their emotional complexity puts them beyond that and in it at the same time. A MINUS
Daddy Issues: Deep Dream (Infinity Cat) They grow up, as punk types always do, and as punk types almost always do, find adulthood as short on fun and thrills as they'd feared. So their guitars overextend into the Jesus and Mary darklands as their vocals blur over with distortion and dismay. But the songs tend musically distinct, sometimes sharp and sometimes heartbreaking. "I've been losing since I lost my virginity." "But it's unimportant now / Because I'm unimportant now." "She's a model / I'm a motel / She ditched college / I don't play guitar too well / We're both boring girls." Only then, just when they seem stuck in the dumps forever, they stick a "Boys of Summer" cover in Don Henley's smug mug. A MINUS
Girlpool: Powerplant (Anti-) Far be it from me to encourage punky minimalists to Learn Their Instruments on the path to Peace Through Art or Big Bucks. Too often that's a not-so-shortcut to sterile formalism or creepy-crawly commercialism. Yet the dream-pop these Philly-based Angeleno BFFs have worked up achieves a surprising softness, vulnerability, dynamic range, and melodicism. Cleo Tucker's guitar articulates and Harmony Tividad's bass complicates as some guy named Miles bangs the drums supportively. The only hitch is all the Explore Your Poeticism. More "You'll build him a tower and he'll burn you a bridge," please. I want to know what you're driving at, meandering toward, or both. B PLUS
Hurray for the Riff Raff: Navigator (ATO) Bronx Puerto Rican emigrates to New Orleans, where she crystallizes a rock group fit to declaim her story ("Living in the City," "Pa'lante," "Rican Beach") ***
Diet Cig: Swear I'm Good at This (Frenchkiss) Small voice, loud drummer, big dream: "I want to be the best one at this/But I don't want to get out of bed" ("Maid of the Mist," "Blob Zombie") **
I Am the Polish Army: My Old Man (self-released) Her emotions too strong for punk speed or indie irony, Emma DeCorsey rocks the way she feels, the old-fashioned way ("My Old Man, "Throat") *
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