Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Freedy Johnston: Never Home [Elektra, 1997]
When Billboard wondered whether Freedy could fill one of those solo-male chart niches left inexplicably vacant by Rod Stewart and Bryan Adams, the object of their affections had the artistic integrity to keep a straight face about it. He's a cardplayer--so committed to the mystery of the ordinary that you have to poke a stick beneath his placid, bland catchiness to glimpse the empathy and compulsion it conceals. With '70s studio hero Danny Kortchmar replacing the mismatched Butch Vig behind the board, Johnston not only regains his grace but spells it out--most of these lyrics tell a story suitable for paraphrasing. But he'll never be accessible to consumers who can only read a heart when it's bloodying a sleeve. Our blessing, his curse. A-