Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Bhundu Boys: True Jit [Mango, 1988]
In the end, their made-in-U.K. breakthrough attempt is a catchy, unconventional pop record--not only is the song for war-dead children about kids they knew, but you can be sure it doesn't suggest the war was unnecessary. But that's all it is. Ingratiation is so ingrained in these former freedom fighters that they're almost swallowed by former Sade producer Robin Millar, who goes for pan-Africana with quasi-Zairean horns and transforms subtle cross-rhythms into upfront hooks. Rewriting "Skokiaan" as "Happy Birthday" because they know "Happy happy Africa" won't wash anymore, structuring "Rugare" ("work hard and reap the fruits of your labour") around schlocko synth chords and bridges that go nowhere, they're victims of crossover, compromising and accommodating when they should be expanding and appropriating. And they're still not half-bad. B+