Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Yalla: Hit List Egypt [Mango, 1990]
One reason rock and rollers don't get Cairo pop is that it's pop in the pre-Warhol, pre-Elvis sense: a middle-class music hemmed in by classical and liturgical conservativism and half-acknowledged Europe envy. Both working-class shaabi and student-class al jeel rebel against these strictures--they're faster, snazzier, and (when they can get away with it) ruder than the ughnijah competition. The ear-catching arrangements and fuck-you spirit of the signature cuts transcend bothersome details of language and mode--their audacity is in the grooves, and you won't want to resist. Delving deeper takes more time, but eventually the rock glitz and Bedouin grit on the al jeel side sound both inventive and inevitable. The shaabi side just sounds gritty and glitzy. A-