Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Blasters: Hard Line [Slash, 1985]
Non Fiction imagined a world in which the American music the Blasters love remained the common tongue of ordinary guys, guys whose connection to their cultural history helped them understand where they were--not in control, but at least conscious. The follow-up attempts to reach those ordinary guys with producers and stereo and more drums and no horns and a John Cougar Mellencamp song, and also with the kind of fancy stuff that comes naturally--accordion here, acoustic version there, Jordanaires all over the place, and the Jubilee Train Singers on a fiercely joyous remake of "Samson and Delilah," which with its ancient threat to tear this building down is good reason not to fret about philosophical retreat. As are "Dark Night," about a race murder, and "Common Man," about some president or other, their two most pointedly political tracks ever. What's softened is the bits of the writing--where Non Fiction nailed specifics (plastic seats, repentant husband wiping ashes off the bed), here Dave Alvin settles (or works) for a level of generalization suitable to pop. Guess he's decided that sometimes ordinary guys don't want things spelled out so fine. He may be right. A