Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Aztec Camera: High Land, Hard Rain [Sire, 1983]
At first I did the obvious thing and pigeonholed this as high-grade pop--richer and truer than Haircut 100 or even the dB's or the Bongos and ultimately feckless anyhow. Now I think it's more like U2 with songs (which is all U2 needs). For sheer composition--not just good tunes, but good tunes that swoop and chime and give you goosebumps--Roddy Frame's only current competition is Marshall Crenshaw, and unlike Crenshaw he never makes you smell retro. His wordcraft is worthy of someone who admires Keats, his wordplay worthy of someone admired by Elvis C.; he sings and arranges with a rousing lyricism that melds militance and the love of life. These are songs in which sweet retreat can't be permanent, in which idealism is buffeted but unbowed--songs of that rare kind of innocence that has survived hard experience. So far, anyway--Frame is still very young. How unusual it is these days for youth to add resonance to what used to be teen music. A-