Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Nuggets [Rhino, 2012]
Crammed onto one CD, here are Lenny Kaye's 27 selections for the first of more garage-protopunk crate-digs (multivolume series dubbed Pebbles, Flashback, etc.) than any sane person could count. Kaye's terrific notes are included, as is a useful addendum from Elektra's Jac Holzman. Assembled just a few years after the singles it comprises were first released, this is punk's Anthology of American Folk Music, the most influential rock comp ever. And some of it is absolutely classic: for me, the Standells' "Dirty Water," the Knickerbockers' "Lies," the Castaways' "Liar, Liar," the Seeds' "Pushin' Too Hard," maybe the Electric Prunes' "I Had Too Much to Dream," and definitely the Count Five's "Psychotic Reaction," the only one of the 27 to go top 10. In fact, note that all of my six designated classics went top 40, while a mere five of the remaining 21 did. With early efforts by Roky Erickson and Todd Rundgren, this signifies nothing. But too many of these records were marginal because they weren't all that good, and are now evocative period pieces only. As Kaye contextualizes them, they make a hell of a variety show, with plenty to say about mass bohemia hippie-style. As a dream to build a band on, they have limits rockin' guitar crazies have been failing to get a bead on ever since. A-