Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Marshall Crenshaw: Field Day [Warner Bros., 1983]
With Steve Lillywhite doctoring Crenshaw's efficient trio until it booms and echoes like cannons in a cathedral, the production doesn't prove Marshall isn't retro, though he isn't. It proves that no matter how genuine your commitment to the present, you can look pretty stupid adjusting to fashion--as usual, production brouhaha is a smokescreen for the betrayal of impossibly ecstatic expectation. Think of Talking Heads 77, New York Dolls, Exile on Main Street, or (for you oldsters) Moby Grape, all in fact a little botched aurally, all classics. Since the problem here isn't mess but overdefinition, a more precise comparison might be Give 'Em Enough Rope, but with a crucial difference: The Clash had better songs than its follow-up, while this follow-up has better songs than the debut. The man has grown up with a bang--though his relationships are suddenly touched with disaster, he vows to try till he dies. And you know what? Lillywhite's drum sound reinforces Crenshaw's surprising new depth--both his sense of doom and his will to overcome it. A+