Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Back to the Beach [Columbia, 1987]
Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Pipeline"? Herbie Hancock's "Wipe Out"? Dave Edmunds's "Wooly Bully"? Pee-wee Herman's "Surfin' Bird"? This soundtrack opens up undreamed vistas of recontextualization, then shuts them down. Unlike Los Lobos claiming Ritchie Valens, the participants find no deep cultural resonance in the ancient texts, and unlike French, Frith, Kaiser & Thompson romping over "Surfin' U.S.A.," they get no kick out of destroying them, either. All they manage is trademarked modernizations consonant with the CHR fodder Mark Goldenberg shovels Aimee Mann and executive culprit David Kahne pours all over Marti Jones. The only winning cuts--and by me this includes even Pee-wee's--come from dodos too simple to aim for anything harder than fun fun fun: Eddie Money, Frankie Avalon, and Annette Funicello. C+