Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Music in My Head [Sterns, 1998]
Although piercing vocals, contentious percussion, and kora guitar are constant, all that really unifies this feverish, coruscating soundtrack to the Mark Hudson novel is Senegal, with one atypically Islamic Franco track standing in for soukous's pan-African inescapability. Yet with half its tracks recorded 1970-1980 and the other half 1992-1995, so that they segue from 1977 to 1994, 1993 to 1980, it cleaves faithfully only to itself--crossover dreams notwithstanding, only a reggaeish Omar Pene unemployment anthem hints anything round, comfy, Euro. Franco elegy and Wassoulou hunting poem and not-for-export mbalax all project congruent rhythmic angles, and watch out you don't trip yourself as musicians jockey for position, vying with their bandmates while continuing to serve the band as they jam rock sonorities into salsa-inflected Senegalese grooves. Desert mystics conquer the fleshpots. Overloaded camions careen down a potholed road. Frantic macho coheres and clashes, stops and goes, crashes and coheres again. A+