Robert Christgau on Some Serious Anti-Trump Music
The Dean of American Rock Critics review Dawn Oberg's 'Nothing Rhymes with Orange' and Tim Heidecker's 'Too Dumb for Suicide.'
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 find out more about his career, read his welcome post; for four decades of critical reviews, check out his regularly updated website.
Dawn Oberg: Nothing Rhymes With Orange (Blossom Theory) It's not good that the most satisfying anti-Trump "long player" yet to surface comprises three compact download-only songs by a Berklee-trained Nashville-to-Frisco lounge DIY-er. But the not good part is the paucity of alternatives—Oberg is a serious talent who gets some nasty licks in. The title track marches smartly from "A walking slab of brain damage beneath a bad toupee" to "He can't grab my snatch but he can bite my bloody rag" without deigning to utter the name of the "orange-tweeting twat" who rhymes with "dump/And stump and chump and bump and lump and hump and slump and rump." That dirty business done, Oberg declines to address him again. Instead she delivers a rhymed disquisition on "double-blind and peer-reviewed" empirical method that's over faster than Fats Domino's "Ain't That a Shame" while repeating "We all enjoy results of scientific inquiry" three times just in case some dumbass missed the point. And then she bids us and history adieu: "I can see the sunset burning at the end of the world from the end of the continent/The final frame of this ill-fated experiment." "I'd Rather Be Wrong," that one is called. It doubts she is. A
Tim Heidecker: Too Dumb for Suicide: Tim Heidecker's Trump Songs (Jagjaguwar) Satire is too good for this potbellied pigwad, this flab-dicked jism drizzler, this ADD SOB, this pustule in a truss, this snake oil salesman in a cancer ward, this, I don't know, real estate man. Loathing is all he deserves, and loathing is hard to put into words, so that even a rhetorician as committed as comedian and challenged singer Heidecker has trouble finding language beyond the magnificent "Imperial Bathroom," a detailed description of *****'s black, rocklike, KFC-informed feces that's keyed to the useful catchphrase "Trump dump" and culminates by predicting he'll die on the porcelain throne. But to be fair, "Wilbur Ross" and "Cooked Chinese Chicken" do pack bite if not bile, as does Heidecker's account of his own brave death in the dungeons of Trump Tower. And "Sentencing Day"'s fantasy of ***** shitting in a pail and/or hanging in the sun is kinda sweet. But where's last spring's Father John Misty collab "I Am a Cuck," a sharper song by far than "Trump's Private Pilot," which gets a Misty remake for musical cred here? Face it, Tim—*****'s pilot is licensed to kiss ass. Motherfucker attracts toadies like a sump full of lily pads. B PLUS
Mavis Staples: Livin' on a High Note (Anti-) All-star songwriting crew works changes on the political truths and homilies this rights standard-bearer has been nailing for half a century ("MLK Song," "History, Now," "Action") ***
Mavis Staples: If All I Was Was Black (Anti-) Flummoxed by the exacting distinction between catchy and memorable, she does her gospel-pop best with 10 Jeff Tweedy protest songs so subtly crafted they barely leave a mark ("Who Told You That," "If All I Was Was Black," "Try Harder") **
Downtown Boys: Cost of Living (Sub Pop) Don't conceive your music as a blunt instrument that'll ram your message home unless you've conceptualized a message a good deal finer than that ("A Wall," "I'm Enough [I Want More]") *
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