Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Plastic People of the Universe: Magical Nights [Munster, 2010]
Half of Egon Bondy's Happy Hearts Club Banned, that crucial early salvo in the former Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution, is scattered through these two discs. That one still sounds glorious on its own. But it's no more likely to be reissued separately than Take a Look at Those Cakes. The long-gone live reunion album 1997, so guitar-heavy you can hear it dreaming of arena-rock glory, has only nine of these 31 selections. And although I miss the Leading Horses finale "Osip," this captures the band more persuasively than either of the six post-Bondy albums I've heard. The mood is eerie and sardonic, and the unchronological song order tracks like a Tarantino movie. Unobliged now to penetrate their considerable political significance, which got too Catholic anyway, I'm free to immerse in the bearlike vocals, jazzlike saxophone, unstinting drive, and gloomy harmonic devices of my favorite prog band. Can and Faust are noodling wimps by comparison. A