Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

MC5: Back in the U.S.A. [Atlantic, 1970]
A severe disappointment at first--a rather obvious and awkward attempt, I thought, to tailor a record to some dimly conceived high school "underground," with titles like "Teenage Lust" and lines like "Young people everywhere are gonna cook their goose/Lots of kids are working to get rid of these blues" (political italics mine). But the music had its way with me. Under Jon Landau, the 5's style has become choppier, harder, and more concise; when his discipline is imposed on the soaring Sinclair-meets-Coltrane expansionism of their Elektra album, as on "Looking at You," the tension is pyrotechnic. The only failure is the ballad, "Let Me Try." But all that will make this album an undeniable success is for it to sell--with propaganda, that's the test. Which means it will probably remain an ambiguous experiment. A-