Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Handsome Family: Live at Schuba's Tavern [DCN, 2002]
Until now the most efficient way to acquire a taste for Rennie and Brett's weird tales was the Ireland-only Down in the Valley comp. This night of greatest whatevers is longer, cheaper, and better. Since they make what little music there is themselves, they've got no production values to lose. Brett's deep monotone loosens up live. And the onstage bickering about magic crystals of overpriced kitty litter and the correct pronunciation of "Vienna sausage" normalize their obsession with the grotesque, the doleful, and the other side of eternity's divide. Sounds like they drive around America picking up gossip at roadside attractions, filling stations, ice cream socials, and bars serving 3.2 beer. Does "Here in the bipolar ward/If you shower you get a gold star" reflect personal experience? So I'm led to understand. But if they weren't past that experience, Rennie wouldn't write about it so well, and Brett wouldn't sing about it at all. A-