Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Tom Zé: Brazil Classics 5: The Return of Tom Zé [Luaka Bop/Warner Bros., 1992]
Zé is the kind of artist you think could be your leader if only he worked in English--your Dylan, your Weill, your David Byrne, some failed or dead hero like that. But if he'd been brought up Anglophone his lyrics would reach for the sky and never get out of the library, and his atonal songcraft wouldn't be so staccato yet grooveful, so acrid yet sweet--in just the right proportions for us, but maybe not for Brazil, where it took none other than David Byrne to rescue him from avant-obscurity. I couldn't swear that the fractured synthesis of sentiment and sarcasm these mementos of his down time convey in translation is any more viable, here or there, than the triumphant fusions of his U.S. debut. But they radiate hope and hilarity nevertheless. A