Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Magnetic Fields: 69 Love Songs [Merge, 1999]
Accusing Stephin Merritt of insincerity would be like accusing Cecil Taylor of playing too many notes--not only does it go without saying, it's what he's selling. I say if he'd lived all 69 songs himself he'd be dead already, and the only reality I'm sure they attest to is that he's very much alive. I dislike cynicism so much that I'm reluctant ever to link it to creative exuberance. But this cavalcade of witty ditties--one-dimensional by design, intellectual when it feels like it, addicted to cheap rhymes, cheaper tunes, and token arrangements, sung by nonentities whose vocal disabilities keep their fondness for pop theoretical--upends my preconceptions the way high art's sposed to. The worst I can say is that its gender-fucking feels more wholehearted than its genre-fucking. Yet even the "jazz" and "punk" cuts are good for a few laughs--total losers are rare indeed. My favorite song from three teeming individually-purchasable-but-what-fun-would-that-be CDs: "The Death of Ferdinand de Saussure," who has the savoir faire to rhyme with "closure," "kosher," and "Dozier" before Merritt murders him. A+