Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Kirsty MacColl: Tropical Brainstorm [Instinct, 2001]
Ewan's pride was always a folkie in her bones, a singer whose acute arrangements were dulled by prefunk grooves. That's why the sauciest songs on her Galore best-of sound a little fusty, and also why this Latin-inspired and -flavored return to the studio seemed like nothing to get worked up about. (Remember Rei Momo? By David Byrne? Right.) Making no claims for the clave of her same old Brit backing guys, she soars like she never has anyway. She always had attitude, but whether she's stalking a fan gone "to a record store/To buy a CD by some other girl not me" or walking all over some Limey masochist in her most impractical shoes, these songs are so loose and raunchy they live the carnival cliche of life-giving rhythm "Mambo de la Luna" stakes its video on. The saxophone-and-autoharp finale is a return to foggy London town even though most of the album takes place there, the non-Latin bonus tracks are letdowns, and MacColl's death in the Caribbean last December hurts every time she ai-yi-yis about what a slut she turned out to be. A-